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GIFT OF 
MARY JVCKSCH 





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CORNELIUS HARNETT 



AN ESSAY IN 
NORTH CAROLINA HISTORY 



BY 

R. D. W. CONNOR 



• • • ",• • •V \ • •• 

• •••• • r •• 



RALEIGH 

Edwabdb & Bbouohton Pbinting Company 

1909 



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^9 ^\ 



Copyrighted, 1909, by R. D. W. Connob 



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TO 
MY WIFE 



253745 

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CONTENTS 



I. Settlement of the Cape Fear. _ 7 

II. Early Public Services ._- 20 

III. TheStampAct 30 

IV. The Continental Association 48 

V. Committees of Correspondence __ 68 

VI. Committees of Safety _ 86 

VII. The Provincial Coimcil 102 

VIII. Independence 120 

IX. The Independent Government _. 152 

X. In the Continental Congress. .._ 179 

XL The Last Year 193 

Index 207 



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CORNELIUS HARNETT 



I 
SETTLEMENT OF THE CAPE FEAR 

Cornelius Harnett was one of that group of 
North Carolina statesmen whose leadership 
during the decade and a half following the 
passage of the Stamp Act, swimg North Caro- 
lina into line with the great continental move- 
ment of the American colonies, overthrew the 
royal authority in the province, organized the 
provisional government, inaugurated the Revo- 
lution, led the way to independence, framed 
the first state constitution, and set in motion 
the wheels of government in the independent 
State. From this group his conspicuous ability 
as an organizer and administrator led his asso- 
ciates with entire imanimity to choose him as 
the head of the Revolutionary government 
where his great executive powers contributed 
so largely to the success of the Revolution in 
North Carolina. 

Harnett first came into prominence in the 
affairs of the province as the political leader of 
the Cape Fear section, — a section in which 
many of the best chapters of North Carolina 
history have been written. Bom the same 



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8 Cornelius Harnett 

year in which that region was opened to settlers, 
and taken thither by his father when a babe 
of three years, Cornelius Harnett grew to man- 
hood as the settlement developed from a wilder- 
ness into a civilized community. He entered 
upon his public career just as the palm of leader- 
ship in North Carolina affairs was on the point 
of passing from the Albemarle to the Cape Fear; 
and during the two decades in which he bore 
that palm, as its representative, the Cape Fear 
reached the highest point of influence which 
it has ever attained in the history of the State. 

At that time the Cape Fear settlement was 
less than half a century old. Among the obsta- 
cles which had retarded its settlement, the 
following were the most important: the char- 
acter of the coast at the mouth of the river; 
the pirates who sought refuge there in large 
numbers; the power of the Cape Fear Indians; 
and the closing of the Carolina land-oflSce by the 
Lords Proprietors. 

The character of the coast could not be changed, 
but those who were interested in the devel- 
opment of the Cape Fear section employed pen 
and tongue to change the reputation which its 
very name had forever fastened upon it. "It 
is by most traders in London believed that the 
coast of this country is very dangerous," wrote 
Governor Burrington, "but in reality [it is] not 
80."^ The fact remains, however, that this 

1 Colonial Records of North Carolina, III, 430. 



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Settlement of the Cape Feab 9 

sentence stands as a better testimonial to the 
governor's zeal than to his regard for the truth. 
A different spirit inspired a later son^ of the Cape 
Fear who, with something of an honest pride 
in the sturdy ruggedness and picturesque bleak- 
ness of the famous point, wrote thus eloquently 
of it: "Looking then to the cape for the idea and 
reason of its name, we find that it is the southern- 
most point of Smith's Island, a naked, bleak 
elbow of sand, jutting far out into the ocean. 
Immediately in its front are the Frying Pan 
Shoals pushing out still farther twenty miles to 
sea. Together they stand for warning and for 
woe: and together they catch the long majestic 
roll of the Atlantic as it sweeps through a thou- 
sand miles of grandeur and power from the 
Arctic towards the Gulf. It is the playground 
of billows and tempests, the kingdom of silence 
and awe, disturbed by no sound save the sea- 
gull's shriek and the breakers' roar. Its whole 
aspect is suggestive not of repose and beauty, 
but of desolation and terror. Imagination can not 
adorn it. Romance can not hallow it. Local 
pride can not soften it. There it stands to-day, 
bleak and threatening and pitiless, as it stood 
three hundred years ago, when Grenville and 
White came near imto death upon its sands. 
And there it will stand, bleak and threatening 
and pitiless, until the earth and sea give up their 
dead. And as its nature, so its name, is now, 

1 George Davis. ' 



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10 Cornelius Harnett 

always has been, and always will be the Cape 
of Fear/' 

But the very dangers that repelled traders 
and adventurers engaged in peaceable and legit- 
imate enterprises made the Cape Fear a favorite 
resort for others whose days were spent in plimder 
and rapine. Behind the bars that stretch across 
the mouth of the river scores of pirates rested 
secure from interference, while they leisurely 
repaired damages and kept a look-out for prey. 
The period from 1650 to the close of the first 
decade of the eighteenth century, John Fiske 
has aptly called ''the golden age of pirates." 
As late as 1717 it was estimated that as many 
as 1500 pirates had headquarters at New Provi- 
dence and at Cape Fear. The next year New 
Providence was captured and the freebooters 
driven away. ''One of its immediate results, 
however'' as Fiske observes, "was to turn the 
whole remnant of the scoundrels over to the 
North Carolina coast where they took their last 
stand." The names of "Blackbeard" and 
Bonnet soon became household words in eastern 
Carolina. The former made his headquarters 
at Bath, the latter at Cape Fear, and together 
they harried the coast from the Chesapeake to 
Florida. Finally through the exertions of Gover- 
nor Spotswood of Virginia, "Blackbeard" was 
defeated, the pirate killed and his infamous crew 
executed; and through the exertions of Governor 



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Settlement of the Cape Fear 11 

Johnson of South Carohna, Captain William 
Rhett sailed to the Cape Fear, captured Bonnet 
and carried him to Charleston where the robber 
was hanged at "the tail of ae tow." These were 
decisive blows to piracy along the North Carolina 
coast and after a few more years the black flags 
of the buccaneers disappeared from our seas. ^ 

The Indians of the Cape Fear "were reckoned 
the most barbarous of any in the colony." Dur- 
ing the Indian wars of 1711-1713 they joined 
the Tuscaroras in a desperate stand against 
European civilization, and the province was 
compelled to appeal to South Carolina and 
Virginia for aid. Though the former generously 
furnished assistance, it required three years of 
the combined efforts of the two colonies to 
crush the power of the Tuscaroras and drive 
them from the province. Two years later the 
Yemassee Indians of South Carolina allied all 
the tribes from Cape Fear to Florida in hostilities 
against the whites, and North Carolina in her turn 
was compelled to send aid to her southern sister. 
Governor Eden sent Colonel Maurice Moore 
with the North Carolina militia to the Cape 
Fear where he struck the blow that finally de- 
stroyed the power of the Indians in that region.* 

But the struggles of the Carolina settlers with 
the forces of nature, the freebooters of the sea, 
and the savages of the wilderness, to recover this 

1 Fiske: Old Virginia and Her Neighbours. II, 364—369. 
* Ashe: History of North Carolina, I. Chapter XV. 



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12 Cornelius Harnett 

splendid region for civilization, were to avail 
nothing if they were to yield obedience to the 
orders of the Lords Proprietors. The Lords 
Proprietors resolved that no more grants should 
be issued in North Carolina, but such sales of 
land only as were made at their ofl&ce in London 
were to be good. ^ But there were men in North 
Carolina who were not content that a few wealthy 
landowners beyond the sea should prevent 
their clearing and settling this inviting region, 
and about the year 1723 the ring of their axes 
began to break the long silence of the Cape Fear. 
They laid off their claims, cleared their fields, 
and built their cabins without regard to the 
formalities of law. When Governor Burrington 
saw that they were determined to take up lands 
without either acquiring titles or paying rents, 
he decided that the interests of the Lords Pro- 
prietors would be served by his giving the one 
and receiving the other. At his suggestion, 
therefore, the Assembly petitioned the governor 
and Council that the land ofllce in Carolina 
might be reopened; and the governor and Coun- 
cil finding ofllcially what they already knew 
individually, that ''sundry persons are already 
seated on the vacant lands for which purchase 
money has not been paid nor any rents," granted 
the Assembly's prayer. ^ 

Good titles thus assured, settlers were not want- 

1 Col. Rec, II, 238; IV, 296, 299, 300. 
8 Col. Rec, II, 528, 529; IV, 296. 



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Settlement op the Cape Feab 13 

ing. Burrington* himself, Maurice Moore and 
his brother Roger, led the way, followed by the 
Moseleys, the Howes, the Porters, the Lillingtons, 
the Ashes, the Hametts, and others whose names 
are closely identified with the history of North 
Carolina. Here on the Cape Fear they were 
joined by mmierous other families from the 
Albemarle, from South Carolina, from Barbadoes 
and other islands of the West Indies, from New 
England, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and from 
Europe. The population increased rapidly, and 
by the close of the first decade there was a 
mmiber of fine estates scattered up and down the 
banks of the Cape Fear and its tributaries.* 
Large tracts of forest lands had been converted 
into beautiful meadows and cultivated planta- 
tions; comfortable, if not elegant farm houses 
dotted the river banks; and two towns had 
sprung into existence. The forest offered tribute 
to the lumberman and the turpentine distiller; 
a number of sawmills had been erected, and 
many of the planters were engaged in the pro- 
duction of naval stores. A brisk trade had been 
established with the mother coimtry and the 
other colonies. When the settlement was less 
than ten years old. Governor Johnston declared 
that the inhabitants were "a sober and industrious 
set of people," that they had made "an amazing 
progress in their improvement," and that the 

1 Col. Reo., Ill, 138. 436. 

s Collections of the Georgia Historical Society, II, 52 et seq. 



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14 Cornelius Harnett 

Cape Fear had become the "place of the greatest 
trade in the whole province." ^ 

The first town on the Cape Fear was laid off 
in 1725, by Maurice Moore, on the west bank of 
the river about fourteen miles above the mouth. 
Maurice Moore gave a site of three hundred 
acres, while his brother Roger Moore "to make 
the said town more regular," added another par- 
cel of land. To encourage the growth of the town, 
Maurice Moore donated sites for a church and 
graveyard, a court-house, a market-house, and 
other pubUc buildings, and a commons "for the use 
of the inhabitants of the town." ^ The town was 
laid off into building lots of one-half acre each to 
be sold only to those who would agree to erect 
on them good, substantial houses. Moore then 
made a bid for royal favor for his Uttle town by 
naming it Brimswick in honor of the reigning 
family. But the career of Brunswick did not 
commend it to the favor of crowned heads or 
their representatives. It never became more 
than a frontier village, and in the course of a 
few years, during which it played an important 
part in the history of the province, it yielded 
with no good grace to a younger and more vigor- 
ous rival sixteen miles farther up the river. 

This second Cape Fear town was laid off just 
below the confluence of the two branches of 
Cape Fear River. It consisted originally of 

1 Col. Rec, IV, 6. 

« Col. Rec, III, 261; State Records, XXIII, 239-243. 



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Settlement of the Cape Fear 15 

two cross streets called Front and Market, names 
which they still bear, while the town itself for 
lack of a better name was called Newtown. 
From the first, Bnmswick regarded Newtown 
as an upstart to be suppressed rather than en- 
couraged. Rivalry originating in commercial 
competition was soon intensified by a struggle 
for political supremacy. The chief factor in 
this struggle was Gabriel Johnston, a hard- 
headed Scotchman who, in 1734, succeeded 
George Burrington as governor. The new gov- 
ernor became one of the most ardent champions 
of Newtown and used not only his personal 
influence but also his oflHicial authority to make it 
the social, commercial and political center of 
the rapidly growing province. Encouraged by 
his favor, Newtown in March 1735, petitioned 
the governor and Council for a charter, but the 
prayer was refused because it required an act of 
the Assembly to incorporate a town. To the 
Assembly, therefore, Newtown appealed and 
as a compliment to the governor asked for incor- 
poration under the name of Wilmington, in honor 
of Johnston's friend and patron, Spencer Comp- 
ton. Earl of Wilmington, afterwards prime minis- 
ter of England. The granting of this petition 
meant death to all the hopes of Brunswick. By 
it Brunswick would be compelled to surrender 
to Wilmington the court-house and jail, the 
county court, the offices of the county officials, 



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16 Cornelius Harnett 

the office of the collector of the port, and the 
election of assemblymen, vestrymen and other 
public officials. Brunswick, therefore, stoutly 
opposed the pretentions of Wilmington and 
kept up a bitter struggle against them for four 
years. The end came in the Assembly of Feb- 
ruary of 1739. Apparently no contest was made 
in the lower house, for Brunswick evidently 
looked to the Council for victory. The Coimcil 
was composed of eight m^knbers, four of whom 
were certainly of the Brunswick party. Accord- 
ingly when the Wilmington bill came before the 
Council four voted for, and four against it. 
Then to the consternation of the Brimswickers, 
the president declared that as president he had 
the right to break the tie which his vote as a 
member had made, and in face of violent oppo- 
sition, cast his vote a second time for the bill. 
The Brunswick party entered vigorous protests, 
but they availed nothing with the governor, 
who, in the presence of both houses of the 
Assembly, gave his assent to the bill. ^ 

Brunswick did not accept defeat gracefully, 
nor did Wilmington bear the honors of victory 
magnanimously. The feelings aroused by the 
long struggle and the manner in which it was 
finally brought to a close strained their commer- 
cial and political relations and embittered their 
social and religious intercourse. ^ But Bruns- 

1 Col. Rec., IV, 43, 235. 448—463, 470 et seq.; XXIII, 133—136. 
» Col. Rec, IV, 457-458, 607. 



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Settlement of the Cape Fear 17 

wick struggled in vain against the Wilmington 
tide. Nature had given to Wilmington a better 
and safer harbor, and this was an ally which 
Brunswick could not overcome. Besides far 
more important matters than the supremacy of 
one straggling village over another soon claimed 
their imited consideration, and they found that 
factional quarrels and jealousies would result 
only in injury to both. After a short time, 
therefore, when the actors in the early struggle 
were all dead, when their animosities had been 
mellowed by time, and when danger from a 
common enemy threatened the welfare of both, 
their differences were buried and forgotten, and 
the two towns stood side by side in the struggle 
for independence. This imion was never broken, 
for the ties formed during those days of peril 
proved stronger than ever their differences had 
been, and Brimswick abandoning the old site 
united fortunes with Wilmington. 

Among the early settlers of Brunswick was 
Cornelius Harnett, Senior, of Chowan precinct. 
Bred a merchant in Dublin, Harnett left his 
native land in the early part of the eighteenth 
century and coming to the New World in search 
of fortune settled at Edenton, in North Carolina, 
some time prior to 1722. There he seems to 
have prospered. He married Mary Holt, daugh- 
ter of Obadiah Holt, of a prominent colonial 
family, entered upon extensive tracts of land, 



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18 Cornelius Harnett 

and soon accumulated an estate estimated in 
value at £7,000 sterling/ But his career on the 
Albemarle was suddenly brought to an unfor- 
timate close. Allying himself with George Bur- 
rington, who had been removed from ofllce, he 
became involved in Burrington's silly quarrel 
with Governor Everard upon whom they made 
an outrageous assault. The grand jury promptly 
returned indictments against both, but Burring- 
ton's influence was strong enough to prevent the 
humiliation of trial and conviction, and after 
several continuances a noL pros, was entered in 
each case." In the meantime, perhaps because 
of this incident, Harnett had left Chowan and 
moved to the Cape Fear, settling at Brunswick/ 
At Brimswick he opened an inn, established 
a ferry over Cape Fear River, entered upon 
large tracts of land, erected sawmills, and became 
one of the leaders in the industrial development 
of the Cape Fear section. His political fortunes, 
too, seemed to flourish. In 1730, Burrington 
was appointed the first royal governor and upon 
his recommendation Harnett was appointed a 
member of the Coimcil. * His career as councilor 
was brief and stormy. The Everard faction, 
who violently opposed Burrington's appoint- 
ment, charged that in selecting his coimcilors, 

1 Col. Rec, III. 332. 

8 Col. Rec, II, 646, 650, 661, 671, 702, 705, 714, 717, 817, 819. 822, 831. 

« Col. Rec., II, 650. 

4 Col. Rec., Ill, 65-86, 91. 



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Settlement of the Cape Fear 19 

his whole aim was "to get a set of persons that 
will go into any measure he shall propose."^ 

In this they were probably right, but both Bur- 
rington and Everard soon found that they were 
mistaken in their estimates of the men selected. 
In 1731, Burrington recommended Harnett for 
reappointment, but in less than six months 
they were quarreling furiously. Finding that 
Harnett would not go into any measure that he 
might propose, Burrington repudiated his friend- 
ship, charged him with base ingratitude, and in 
Harnett's own house denounced him as a "fool, 
blockhead, puppy, Ashe's tool, and this without 
any provocation or anything then said by Mr. 
Harnett. " ^ To the Board of Trade Burrington 
wrote: "I am himibly of opinion Harnett's 
sitting in Council is a disgrace to it." His 
attacks had the desired effect, for Harnett, becom- 
ing tired of the controversy, resigned. 

The closing years of his career were less stormy 
and perhaps more useful. During those years 
he served as a justice of the peace, as the first 
sheriff of New Hanover county, and as vestryman 
of St. Philip's Church at Brunswick. Dying 
in 1742, he left a not inconsiderable estate^ to 
his son of the same name who was destined to 
play an eminent part in the history of North 
Carolina. 



1 Col. Rec, III, 123. 
« Col. Rec, III, 366. 

« MS. record in the court-house of New Hanover county, furnished 
by Messrs. A. M. Waddell and W. B. McKoy. 



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II 

EARLY PUBLIC SERVICES 

This second Cornelius Harnett was born in 
Chowan county in 1723/ In June 1726 his 
father purchased from Maurice Moore two 
lots in the town of Brunswick on condition 
that within eight months he should build on 
them good, habitable houses. This condi- 
tion was fulfilled, and thus the younger Har- 
nett at the age of three years became a resi- 
dent of the Cape Fear. He seems to have taken 
advantage of such educational opportimities as 
were offered him for we are told that "he could 
boast a fine taste for letters and a genius for 
music," and that he was a lover of books which 
he ''read with a critical eye and inquisitive 
mind." He early became identified with the 
interests of Wilmington and was one of the 
leaders in the industrial development of that 
town and its surrounding country. Growing 
up with the Cape Fear settlement, he became 
thoroughly imbued with the spirit of the new 
coimtry, of which the dominant note was then, 
as now, high standards of personal integrity and 
honor, and passionate devotion to that ideal of 
individual liberty, which calls every man's house 
his castle. The customs of the people, their 

1 state Rec, XI, 603; XIV. 264. 



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Early Public Services 21 

habits of thought, their feelings and sentiments, 
and their faults and virtues, all became his own. 
His intimate knowledge of their life and character, 
his sympathy with their ideals and ambitions, 
his wealth and his attractive social qualities, 
his genius and his culture, combined to make 
him the leader in the movements of which Wil- 
mington was soon to become the center, and 
produced in him, as he has been called, "the 
representative man of the Cape Fear," and "the 
idol of the town of Wilmington." 

"In itself," as Bishop Cheshire says, "Wilming- 
ton was an inconsiderable place until some time 
after the Revolution. But it was the center of 
a most cultivated, high-spirited and intelligent 
population, and, as it were, the stage upon which 
all the eminent men of the country around per- 
formed their parts. It was at once the head and 
the heart of the Cape Fear section. Its history is 
not the history of the dwellers within its corporate 
limits alone. The owner of a house and lot in 
the town could vote for its member of the Assem- 
bly, though he left his house vacant and lived 
in the country; and the qualification of its repre- 
sentative was not residence in the town, but 
the ownership of town property. So it came 
about that many of the most prominent charac- 
ters in its history, those who were actors in its 
most stirring scenes, and who are identified with 
its memories and traditions, never resided within 



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22 Cornelius Harnett 

its limits. There were wealthy and intelligent 
and public-spirited townsmen, * * * but 
the greater number of its most eminent names 
are those of men living in the country around." ^ 

Circumstances, as will be seen in the course of 
this narrative, made Wilmington the center of 
the movements which led up to the Revolution 
in North Carolina, and gave to its strongest 
men the place of leadership in the province. 
The town itself, as Bishop Cheshire says, "had 
no single man superior to Iredell or Johnston, 
of Edenton, but there were in Wilmington, and 
residing in the country around, a larger nimiber of 
men than could be found in any other portion 
of the province of like commanding character 
and eminent abiUty." Among them were Hugh 
Waddell, John Ashe, Samuel Ashe, Alexander 
Lillington, Robert Howe, Maurice Moore, Wil- 
liam Hooper, Timothy Bloodworth, Adam Boyd, 
Alexander Maclaine, James Moore, Moses John 
deRosset, and Cornelius Harnett, all of whom, 
performing their parts on the stage at Wilming- 
ton, wrote their names high in the annals of the 
Commonwealth. 

Of Cornelius Harnett as a political leader, 
Archibald Maclaine Hooper says: "In his pri- 
vate transactions he was guided by a spirit 
of probity, honor and liberality: and in his 
political career he was animated by an ardent 
and enlightened and disinterested zeal for liberty, 

1 Historic Towns of the Southern States : "Wilmington," 235. 



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Early Public Services 23 

in whose cause he exposed his life and endangered 
his fortune. He had no tinge of the visionary 
in the complexion of his politics. 'He read the 
volume of human nature and imderstood it.' 
He studied closely that complicated machine, 
man, and managed it to the greatest advantage 
for the cause of hberty, and for the good of his 
country. That he sometimes adopted artifice, 
when it was necessary for the attainment of his 
purpose, may be admitted with little imputation 
on his morals and without disparagement to his 
imderstanding. His general course of action 
in public life was marked by boldness and deci- 
sion. ' ' 

His public career extended over a period of 
thirty years. In April 1750 he entered upon the 
duties of his first office. In April 1781 he died. Be- 
tween those two dates he was continuously in the 
service of his town, his county, his province, and 
his coimtry. On April 7, 1750, Governor Gabriel 
Johnston appointed Harnett a justice of the 
peace in New Hanover coimty. In August of 
the same year he was chosen a commissioner of 
the town of Wilmington, and between that date 
and 1771 he served in that capacity eleven years. 
He entered upon a larger field of service in 1754 
when he became a member of the General Assem- 
bly as the representative of the borough of 
Wilmington. Twelve other assemblies were 
chosen in North Carolina under the authority 



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24 Cornelius Harnett 

of the British Crown in all of which Harnett sat 
for Wilmington. His legislative career covered 
a period of twenty seven years, embracing 
service in the Colonial Assembly, in the Pro- 
vincial Congress, and in the Continental Con- 
gress. There was nothing dramatic about his 
career. He had no power, such as Hooper had, 
to stir men's passions with an outburst of elo- 
quence, nor had he, Uke Caswell, the genius to 
inflame their imaginations by a brilliant military 
feat. Yet a careful and scholarly student, 
after a painstaking study of the records a century 
and a quarter after Harnett's death, unhesita- 
tingly declared as his sober judgment: ''To one 
who studies impartially the annals of this State 
during the last half of the eighteenth century, 
the conviction will become irresistible that the 
mightiest single force in North Carolina history 
during the whole of the Revolutionary period was 
Cornelius Harnett, of New Hanover county. ' ' ^ 

Harnett's career in the General Assembly 
falls historically into two distinct periods. The 
first covered the years between 1754 and 1765; 
the second the decade from 1765 to 1775. One 
embraced the administration of Governor Dobbs 
and the French and Indian war, and closed with 
the coming of Governor Tryon and the Stamp 
Act; the other was ushered in by the Stamp 

1 C. Alphonso Smith: " Our Debt to Cornelius Harnett," in North 
Carolina University Magazine, May 1907, 379. 



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Early Public Services 25 

Act and witnessed the gathering of the storm 
which broke into Revolution in 1775. 

Harnett took his seat in the Assembly in 
February, 1754, at a special session called to 
consider Virginia's appeal for aid in driving the 
French from English territory.* Throughout 
the struggle that followed, he took an active 
part in devising measures for the support of the 
war. Committees on which he served drafted 
bills for raising troops, erecting fortifications, 
and appropriating fimds for war purposes.* 
Altogether the Assembly appropriated for the 
war more than £50,000. These appropriations, 
as the Assembly declared and the governor 
acknowledged, were all voted with "alacrity," 
though they imposed upon the province a debt 
of "above forty shillings each taxable," which 
was more than the currency in circulation.' In 
spite of this fact, the Assembly could not satisfy 
the demands of the governor. More zealous 
than judicious he allowed himself to become 
involved in a foolish quarrel over a matter which 
he was pleased to regard as an encroachment on 
the prerogative of the king; and rather than 
yield a little where resistance could do no good, 
he foolishly threw away the supplies which a 
burdened people reluctantly offered. Quarrel 
followed quarrel; the sessions were consumed 

1 Col. Rec.. V, 192. 

s Col. Rec., V, 193, 246, 693, 716, 846—848, 1084—85; VI, 136—7, 164-^, 
319—324, 689—90. 
« Col. Rec., V, 1001. 



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26 Cornelius Harnett 

with quarrels. The Assembly refused to frame 
supply bills at the governor's dictation, and in an 
outburst of wrath he wrote to the Board of 
Trade that the members were "as obstinate as 
mules," and appealed for greater authority 
declaring that "there must be an end of their 
[the Assembly's] dependency on Britain if 
governors are not supported when they do their 
duty."' 

But the real work of the Assembly diu'ing the 
first decade of Harnett's services was a conscious 
effort to readjust the relations existing between 
the Crown and the province. The efforts of the 
former, expressed through the governor, were 
directed toward strengthening and extending 
the king's prerogative. But the province having 
outgrown the weakness of infancy was beginning 
to enjoy the vigor of youth, and felt the paternal- 
ism of the Crown chiefly in its restraints. The 
royal prerogative had a way of interfering with 
measures which the Assembly deemed of impor- 
tance to the welfare of the province, and men 
began to consider whether it were possible to 
get along without it. This feeling became so 
strong that Governor Dobbs, in 1760, declared 
that his authority ought to be enlarged so that 
he might "prevent the rising spirit of independ- 
ency stealing into this colony." ^ Appropriation 
bills, too, occasioned some sharp encounters over 

1 Col. Rec, VI, 250. 
8 Col. Rec, VI, 251. 



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Early Public Services 27 

the constitutional right of the House of Commons 
to frame all supply bills. When the Coimcil 
offered an amendment to the aid bill at the Decem- 
ber session, 1754, drawn by a committee of which 
Harnett was a member, the Commons promptly 
rejected it, and imanimously resolved, "that the 
Coimcil in taking upon them to make^ sev- 
eral material alterations to the said bill whereby 
the manner of raising as well as application of 
the aid thereby granted to his Majesty is directed 
in a different manner than by that said bill 
proposed, have acted contrary to custom and 
usage of Parliament and that the same tends 
to infringe the rights and liberties of the Assembly 
who have always enjoyed uninterrupted the 
privilege of framing and modeling all bills by 
virtue of which money has been levied on the 
subject for an aid for his Majesty." ^ Moreover 
a committee of the Assembly protested to the 
governor against the navigation acts both as 
burdensome to the trade of the province, and as 
levying taxes on the people against what they 
esteemed their inherited right and exclusive 
privilege of imposing their own taxes.* There 
was a long struggle, too, over the judicial system, 
the Assembly insisting on devising a system 
independent of the Crown, while the governor 
resented the efforts as encroachments on the 
king's prerogative. Cornelius Harnett served 

1 Col. Rec., V, 287. 
» Col. Rec., VI, 1261. 



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28 Cornelius Harnett 

on the committees which waged this fight/ but 
they waged a losing battle for the king rejected 
their bills and rebuked both the Assembly and 
the governor for passing them. The question 
of the number necessary to constitute a quorum 
of the House of Commons also furnished a fruit- 
ful topic for disagreement. The king instructed 
the governor to consider fifteen members a 
quorum, but the Assembly resolved "that they 
would stand by their interpretation of their 
charter and not enter upon any business without 
a majority of the whole House." An afifair that 
brought on a triangular fight in which the gov- 
ernor, the Council, and the Assembly all took 
different grounds was the appointment of an 
agent to represent the province in England. 
The governor objected to any agent at all; the 
Council insisted upon its right to a voice in 
selecting him; while the Assembly was deter- 
mined both to have an agent and to exercise the 
power of appointing him without the interference 
of the Council and in spite of the opposition 
of the governor. 

Aside from these political contests the work of 
the Assembly consisted largely in planning 
schemes for internal improvements. The popu- 
lation of the province was rapidly increasing, 
its industries expanding, its commerce becoming 
respectable, its social and political life, recovering 

1 Col. Rec, V, 244, 693: VI, 140, 1154b. 



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Early Public Services 29 

from the turbulence of earlier days, had become 
more settled, and the regulation of its internal 
affairs demanded the attention of the Assembly. 
Cornelius Harnett was an active leader in this 
work. He served on committees to prepare 
bills for the building of roads and the establish- 
ment of ferries; for the location of towns, where 
no towns ever grew, and for the creation of coun- 
ties; for the regulation of quit-rents and the 
settlement of public accounts; for the encourage- 
ment of agriculture and the protection of infant 
industries, most of which never outgrew their 
infancy; for the organization of the militia 
and the protection of the coast and the frontier; 
for the regulation of commerce and the pro- 
tection of traders; for the encouragement of 
public schools and the advancement of religion 
and the support of an "orthodox clergy." There 
were few committees of importance on which 
he did not serve, few debates in which he did not 
participate. A history of his legislative career 
for the years 1754 to 1765 would be a history 
of the Assembly for that decade. ^ 

1 The proceedings of the Assembly during these years are printed 
in the Colonial Records of North Carolina, V and VI. 



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Ill 

THE STAMP ACT 

The second decade of Harnett's legislative 
career began with the coming of Governor 
Tryon and the passage of the Stamp Act. Tryon 
took the oath of oflSce April 3, 1765. At that 
time the Stamp Act was the chief topic of dis- 
cussion in the political circles of America. The 
opposition to it in North Carolina brought to 
the front a new set of leaders and for the first 
time put them in touch with continental affairs. 
Among these leaders Cornelius Harnett was 
conspicuous. For obvious reasons, the Cape 
Fear became the chief scene of action in North 
Carolina and its coiu'se determined the course 
of the province. Tryon resided at Brimswick. 
He was a man of much greater force and ability 
than any of his predecessors. Courtly, versatile, 
tactful and resourceful, he knew how to win the 
favor of men and understood the secrets of 
leadership. If any man could have induced the 
people of North Carolina to accept the Stamp 
Act, Tryon was the man. But the men with 
whom he had to contend were men of equal 
ability and determination and had, moreover, 
far more at stake than he. Before his arrival 
they had already made up their minds what 
coiu-se they intended to pursue, and the Assembly, 



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The Stamp Act 31 

through a committee of which Cornelius Harnett 
was a member, had united with the other colonies 
in protesting against the proposed stamp duty. ^ 
When Tryon asked John Ashe, Speaker of the 
Assembly, what the attitude of the colony would 
be toward the Stamp Act, Ashe promptly replied 
with great confidence: "We will resist it to the 
death." 

In this determination the representatives 
received loyal support from their constituents. 
Indeed, from the first, opposition to the Stamp 
Act in North Carolina was a popular movement, 
though directed and controlled by a few trusted 
leaders. In various parts of the province, during 
the smnmer, public demonstrations were made 
against it. At Wilmington large crowds gathered 
from the surroimding counties, drank "Liberty, 
Property and no Stamp Duty;" hanged Lord 
Bute in effigy; compelled the stamp master, 
William Houston, to resign his office; required 
Andrew Stewart, the printer, to issue the Cape 
Fear Gazette on unstampt paper; and organized 
themselves into an association by which they 
"mutually and solemnly plighted their faith 
and honor that they would at every risk what- 
soever and whenever called upon unite, and 
truly and faithfully assist each other in preventing 
entirely the operation of the Stamp Act." ^ Tryon 

1 Col. Rec, VI, 1296. 

> For the proceedings against the Stamp Act on the Cape Fear, see 
Col. Rec, VII, 123 et seq. 



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32 Cornelius Harnett 

in great haste called into consultation a number 
of the leading merchants, assured them if they 
would not resist the Stamp Act, that he would 
lu-ge the ministry to exempt North Carolina 
from its operation, and offered as a pledge of his 
good faith to pay himself the duty on all instru- 
ments whereon he was entitled to any fee. To 
this shrewd proposition the merchants replied 
that every view of the Stamp Act confirmed 
them in their opinion that it was destructive 
of those liberties which, as British subjects, 
they had a right to enjoy in common with their 
fellow subjects of Great Britain, and hence they 
felt it their duty to resist it to the utmost of their 
power. 

The issues were thus joined. But no occasion 
arose for putting the resolution of the people 
to a test imtil November 28th, when the sloop, 
Diligencey Captain Phipps, with a cargo of stamps, 
cast anchor at Brunswick. Quickly spread 
the news of her arrival. Up and down the Cape 
Fear, and far into the country, men snatched 
their rifles and hurried to Brunswick. Under 
the command of Hugh Waddell and John Ashe, 
they presented a resolute front to the king's man- 
of-war, and declared their purpose to resist any 
attempt to land the king's stamps. Captain 
Phipps prudently declined to put their resolu- 
tion to a test. A month passed, and Governor 
Tryon wrote, "the stamps remain on board the 



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The Stamp Act 33 

said ship;" and after still another month, he 
added, "where they still remain." It is impos- 
sible now to realize fully just what such conduct 
meant, but we may be sure that Ashe and Wad- 
dell, and the men who followed them, knew what 
they dared when, with arms in their hands, they 
thus defied the king's officers. Treason it was, 
of course; but while the merchants and planters 
of the Cape Fear might escape the penalties of 
treason they well knew they could not, if the 
situation remained long unchanged, escape the 
penalties of ruin. Vessels rocked idly at their 
anchorage and sails flapped lazily against their 
masts, for Wilmington and Brunswick were 
closed ports. Ships boimd for the Cape Fear 
passed by to other ports, and the merchants 
expected nothing less than the total destruction 
of their trade. Nevertheless, as Tryon wrote, 
they were "as assiduous in obstructing the recep- 
tion of the stamps as any of the inhabitants. 
No business," he continued, "is transacted in the 
courts of judicature * * * and all civil 
government is now at a stand. The stagnation 
of all public business and commerce, imder the 
low circumstances of the inhabitants, must be 
attended with fatal consequences to this colony 
if it subsists but for a few months longer." 

With the opening of the New Year the struggle 
reached its climax. Two vessels arrived at 
Brunswick, the Dobbs from Philadelphia, and the 



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34 CoRNBuus Harnett 

Patience from St. Christopher, neither of which 
had stamps on her clearance papers. Although 
each vessel presented to the collector a state- 
ment signed by the collectors at Philadelphia and 
at St. Christopher that no stamps were to be had 
at either place, nevertheless Captain Lobb, of 
the cruiser VipeVj declared both vessels outlaws 
and seized them in the name of the king. Later 
a third vessel, the Rvby, shared a like fate. Cap- 
tain Lobb delivered their papers to Collector 
William Dry that proceedings might be insti- 
tuted against them in the admiralty court. 
Thereupon Dry consulted the attorney-general, 
submitting to him three queries: first, whether 
failure to obtain clearances on stampt paper 
justified the seizure; second, whether judgment 
ought to be given against the vessels "upon 
proof being made that it was impossible to ob- 
tain clearances" on stampt paper; third, whether 
the proceedings should be instituted in the ad- 
miralty court at Halifax, N. S., rather than at 
Cape Fear. 

The passions of the people were profoundly 
stirred by these proceedings, but while the 
attorney-general was preparing his answer, they 
were admirably suppressed. When the answer 
was finally given, it was an aflSrmative to each 
of the collector's questions. Instantly the smoth- 
ered flames flared into open conflagration. 
Wilmington peremptorily refused the usual pro- 



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The Stamp Act 35 

visions to the king's vessels, the angry people 
seized the boats sent ashore for supplies and 
threw their crews into the common jail. Corne- 
lius Harnett joined numerous others in a letter 
to William Dry warning him against the course 
advised by the attorney-general. A party of 
unknown men entered the collector's house, 
broke open his desk, and seized the ships' papers. 
The people of the siuTOunding counties seized 
their guns, hurried to Wilmington, organized 
an armed association composed of "all the 
principal gentlemen, freeholders and other inhab- 
itants of several coimties," took an oath to resist 
the Stamp Act to the death, and marched to 
Brunswick to rescue the outlawed vessels. It 
was late in the afternoon of February 19th, when 
they entered the little village before which lay 
the king's cruiser and near which the king's 
governor dwelt. Hearing at Brunswick that 
Captain Lobb was concealing himself in the 
governor's house, the "inhabitants in arms," 
as Tryon always called them, turned their steps 
in that direction. Though fully determined 
to seize Lobb and force him to siurender the 
vessels, the leaders were equally determined to 
protect the governor from insult. Accordingly, 
Cornelius Harnett and George Moore waited on 
him in advance of their followers and offered 
him a guard. But they had misjudged their 
man. Whatever else he may have been, William 



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36 Cornelius Harnett 

Tryon was not a coward. He haughtily com- 
manded that no guard be sent to give its pro- 
tection where it was neither necessary nor 
desired, and with this rebuff, Moore and Harnett 
retired. Immediately a band of armed men 
surroimded the house and demanded the sur- 
render of Captain Lobb. But Tryon stood firm, 
and peremptorily refused to communicate any 
information to the "inhabitants in arms, ' ' saying 
that as they had arms in their hands they might 
break open his locks, force his doors, and search 
his house if they chose to do so. But the leaders, 
having no quarrel with Tryon, were not ready 
for such violent measures; and learning in some 
other way that Captain Lobb was not there, 
they detailed a small guard to watch the gov- 
ernor's house and withdrew to Brunswick for 
the night. 

The next morning a delegation from the 
''inhabitants in arms" went aboard the Viper 
and demanded the release of the Rvby and the 
Patience. The DobbSy having given proper se- 
curity, had already been released. Afraid to 
refuse and imwilling to comply, Lobb begged 
a respite till the afternoon. In the meantime 
he held a conference with the governor and 
other officials to whom he declared his piu*pose 
to release the Rvby, at the same time expressing 
his imalterable determination to hold fast to the 
Patience. Half a loaf to the people and half to 



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The Stamp Act 37 

the govermnent, he thought ought to satisfy 
both. It did satisfy Tryon who expressed his 
approval of the division. At the same time he 
urged Lobb not to consider him, his family or 
his property as he was only "solicitous for the 
honor of the government and his Majesty's 
interest in the present exigency." With this 
imderstanding the conference was brought to a 
close. But the other party was not so easily 
satisfied. When the delegation from the "inhab- 
itants in arms'' returned to the Viper they dis- 
sented so vigorously, that Captain Lobb was 
forced to surrender to them both their half and the 
government's half also. He based his compli- 
ance on the groimd that he did not think "it 
proper to detain the sloop Rvhy any longer," 
and had suddenly discovered there were "perish- 
able commodities on board the sloop Patience.^' 
But such transparent excuses could not deceive 
the governor. Tryon was utterly astonished 
when he learned that Lobb had surrendered 
completely to the people, and took him severely 
to task for his action. The detention of the 
Patience, he declared, was "a point that concerned 
the honor of the government," and Lobb's 
surrender of the vessel was a breach of faith for 
it made the governor's situation "very unpleas- 
ant, as most of the people by going up to Wil- 
mington would remain satisfied and report 
through the province they had obtained every 
point they came to redress." 



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38 Cornelius Harnett 

But Tryon himself was not to be exempt from 
similar treatment. It is true the people |iad 
obtained every point they came to redress, but 
their work was not finished until they had made 
sure no other points would arise that would 
require redressing. There could be no ^surance 
of this, so long as there remained in the province 
any royal oflftcial with authority to sell stamps 
and seize vessels who was at liberty to exercise 
his authority. Accordingly the leaders made 
up their minds to take the same precaution 
against this as they had taken in the case of 
Houston. During the afternoon of February 
20th, wrote Tryon, "Mr. Pennington, his 
Majesty's comptroller, came to let me know 
there had been a search after him, and as he 
guessed they wanted him to do some act that 
would be inconsistent with the duties of his 
office, he came to acquaint me with this enquiry 
and search." The governor offered the comp- 
troller a bed for the night and the protection 
of his roof, both of which the frightened official 
gratefully accepted. Early the next morning 
the "inhabitants in arms" sent Colonel James 
Moore to demand that they be permitted to 
speak with Pennington. To this demand Tryon 
replied: "Mr. Pennington being employed by 
his Excellency on dispatches for his Majesty's 
service, any gentleman that has business with 
him may see him at the governor's house." 



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The Stamp Act 39 

About ten o'clock Tryon observed "a body 
of men in arms from four to five himdred," 
moving toward his house. Three hundred yards 
away they drew up in line and sent a detachment 
of sixty men down the avenue to the door. The 
leader and spokesman of this detachment was Cor- 
nelius Harnett. Then followed the most dramatic 
scene of the struggle over the Stamp Act, a brief 
but intense interview between William Tryon, 
representative of the king's government, and 
Cornelius Harnett, representative of the people's 
will, for possession of one of the king's officers. 
Two better representatives of their respective 
causes could not have been found. Each was 
acute, determined and resourceful, and each sin- 
cere in believing his the better cause. Tryon, the 
ablest of the colonial governors and one of the 
most forceful Englishmen ever sent in an official 
capacity to America, "could accomplish more," 
we are told, "by the forcefulness of his personality 
and the awe inspired by his mere presence than 
other rulers could do by edicts and armies. " ^ 
Cornelius Harnett, we are told, "could be wary 
and circimispect, or decided and daring as 
exigency dictated or emergency required." In 
the interview that followed Tryon had no force- 
fulness of personality or awe of presence which 
he could afford to hold in reserve; and Harnett 

1 Smith: U. N. C. Mag., May, 1907, 383. 



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40 Cornelius Harnett 

was compelled to be both wary and decided, 
both circumspect and daring. 

Harnett opened the interview by demanding 
that Pennington be permitted to accompany 
him. Tryon replied that the comptroller had 
come into his house seeking refuge, that he was 
an officer of the Crown, and as such should 
receive all the protection the governor's roof 
and dignity of character could afford him. 
Harnett insisted. "The people," he said, "are 
determined to take him out of the house if he 
is longer detained, an insult," he added quickly, 
"which they wish to avoid offering to your 
Excellency." "An insult," retorted Tryon, 
"that will not tend to any consequences, since 
they have already offered every insult in their 
power, by investing my house and making me 
in effect a prisoner before any grievance or oppres- 
sion has been first represented to me." During 
this conversation Pennington "grew very imeasy," 
and said "he would choose to go with the gentle- 
men," and the governor again repeated his 
offer of protection. But Pennington was. doubt- 
ful of the governor's power to make good his 
offer, however good his intentions might be, and 
he decided to go with Harnett. To the governor, 
however, he declared that whatever oaths might 
be imposed upon him, he would consider as acts 
of compulsion and not of free will; adding that 
he would rather resign his office than do any- 



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The Stamp Act 41 

thing contrary to his duty. "If that is your 
determination," replied the disgusted governor, 
"you had better resign before you leave here/' 
Hamett quickly interposed his objection to this 
course, but Tryon insisted and Pennington sided 
with him. Paper and ink were accordingly 
brought and the resignation was written and 
accepted. "Now, sir," said Tryon bitterly, 
"you may go"; and Hamett led the ex-comp- 
troller out of the house to his followers who 
were waiting outside. 

The detachment then rejoined the main body 
of the "inhabitants in arms," and the whole 
withdrew to the town. There they drew up in 
a large circle, placed the comptroller and the 
customs-house officials in the center, and admin- 
istered to them all an oath "that they would 
not, directly or indirectly, by themselves, or 
by any other person employed imder them, sign 
or execute in their several offices, any stampt 
papers, imtil the Stamp Act should be accepted 
by the province." The clerk of the court and 
other public officials, and all the lawyers, were 
sworn to the same eflfect; and as each took the 
pledge the cheers of the crowd bore the news to 
the enraged and baffled governor as he sat in 
his room keenly conscious of his defeat. The 
letter in which he described these events to his 
superiors in England, it has been truly said, 
"contained the most humiliating acknowledgment 



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42 Cornelius Harnett 

of baffled pride and irredeemable failure that 
Tryon was ever called upon to pen."^ Their 
work finished, the "inhabitants in arms'' dis- 
persed quietly and quickly to their homes. 

"It is well worthy of observation/' as the 
North Carolina Gazette boasted, "that few in- 
stances can be produced of such a nimiber of men 
being together so long and behaving so well; 
not the least noise or disturbance, nor any person 
seen disguised with liquor, during the whole of 
their stay in Brunswick; neither was any injury 
offered to any person, but the whole affair was 
conducted with decency and spirit, worthy the 
imitation of all the Sons of Liberty throughout 
the continent." This splendid record was due 
to the high character and lofty purposes of the 
men who led and who composed that body of 
men to whom Tryon always refers as "the inhab- 
itants in arms." "The mayor and corporation 
of Wilmington," he wrote, "and most of the 
gentlemen and planters of the coimties of Brims- 
wick. New Hanover, Duplin, and Bladen, with 
some masters of vessels, composed this corps." 

Throughout the contest Harnett and the other 
leaders received loyal support from the people. 
They were in the midst of it upon the day set 
by the governor's writ for the election of repre- 
sentatives to the Assembly. Wilmington mani- 
fested its approval of Harnett's course by electing 
him without opposition, and New Hanover 

1 Smith: U. N. C. Mag., May, 1907, 384. 



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The Stamp Act 43 

unanimously elected John Ashe and James 
Moore. But the Assembly was not to meet any 
time soon. Tryon was too prudent a politician 
to convene a session while the people were in 
such a rebellious mood. He foresaw that Par- 
liament would likely repeal the Stamp Act and 
hoped by annoimcing that fact when the Assem- 
bly met to insure the good humor of the House. 
It was not until November, therefore, that he 
ventured to face the people's representatives. 
He opened the session with a conciliatory message. 
But the members, irritated at his delay in calling 
them together, replied through a conmiittee of 
which Harnett was a member, with such asperity 
and show of temper, that the Council denoimced 
their message as "altogether indecent, without 
foundation and unmerited." ' The reply cut 
the governor to the quick, but he kept his temper 
and met the strictures of the Assembly with 
admirable moderation and dignity. 

Whatever one may think of Tryon, there can 
be but one just opinion of his bearing throughout 
these trying ordeals. He bore himself on every 
occasion with dignity, courage and fidelity to 
his trust. His dispatches even when acknowl- 
edging defeat are conspicuous for their good 
temper. We search in vain for the ill-tempered 
invectives and impassioned superlatives that 
characterized the dispatches both of Dobbs, 
his predecessor, and of Martin, his successor. 

1 Col. Reo., VII, 272. 



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44 Cornelius Harnett 

Closing his letter to Secretary Conway, he says: 
''Thus, sir, I have endeavored to lay before you 
the first springs of this disturbance as well as 
the particular conduct of the individual parties 
concerned in it and I have done this as much as 
I possibly could without prejudice or passion, 
favor or affection." The impartial reader 
will pronoimce that in this endeavor he reached a 
remarkable degree of success. Nor was his cour- 
age less marked than his dignity. When shielding 
Lobb on the evening of February 19 and when 
standing between Pennington and the "inhab- 
itants in arms" on the morning of the 21st, one 
feels sure that he would have seen his house go 
down in ruins or up in smoke before he would 
have yielded one inch to the besiegers. In this 
courage straight from his heart originated his im- 
f eigned and imconcealed contempt for the conduct 
of Captain Lobb. We feel assured that William 
Tryon would have buried himself, his crew and his 
opponents in the bottom of the Cape Fear river 
beneath the wrecks of the Viper, the Diligence, 
the Dobbs, the Patience, and the Ruby, all, before 
he would have broken his engagement and 
embarrassed his superior officer. His sympathies 
were with the people in their struggle, and the 
duty imposed upon him a disagreeable one, but 
he faced it like a man and performed it faithfully. 
The king had entrusted him with the execution 
of the laws in North Carolina and that trust he 



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The Stamp Act 45 

regarded, rightly or wrongly, as superior to any 
obligations he owed to the people of the province. 
He was not their governor; he was the king's 
vicegerent, and his first duty was to obey the 
commands of his master. 

To say this of Tryon is not to depreciate the 
honor and the glory that belong to his opponents. 
To Harnett and Ashe and Moore and Waddell 
and the men who followed them. North Carolin- 
ians owe their liberty, and no true American 
anywhere will deny to them the credit that 
belongs to those who see the right and fearlessly 
pursue it. Throughout the contest the "inhab- 
itants in arms" carried every point at issue. 
But the most remarkable feature of the struggle 
was its absolute openness and orderliness. No 
attempt at conceahnent, no effort at disguise 
betrayed a doubt in the minds of the leaders 
that they were engaged in a righteous cause. 
The resistance was made by men on terms of 
familiarity with the governor, under the guns 
of the king's ships, and in the broad open light 
of day. Conscious of the rectitude of their 
purpose, the moral if not the legal right of their 
conduct, they felt that any attempt at conceal- 
ment would be an admission, at least, of a doubt 
in their minds of the propriety of their course, 
and this they scorned to make. 

Throughout this contest the conduct of no 
man stands out so conspicuously as that of 



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46 Cornelius Harnett 

Cornelius Harnett. From the announcement 
of the British ministry's intention to levy a 
stamp duty in America, he was among the 
foremost in opposition; and it is stating nothing 
more than the records will bear out to say that 
when the struggle closed, no man could justly 
claim more credit for successfully preventing 
the operation of the Stamp Act in North Carolina 
than he. Circmnstances it is true favored him. 
Wilmington was the chief port of entry in the 
province and Brunswick was the place of the 
governor's residence, consequently the Cape 
Fear became the scene of the struggle. When 
it began there were several strong, forceful men 
in the immediate vicinity of Wilmington and 
Brunswick capable of leading the opposition, 
but none of them stood so conspicuously above 
the others in leadership that he can be designated 
as the leader. The records of their earliest 
proceedings, therefore, are largely impersonal 
and it is difficult to say just what share each 
of the leaders had in them. Thus we are told 
what the mayor and aldermen did, what the 
attitude of the leading merchants was, what 
part the Sons of Liberty played, how the prin- 
cipal gentlemen and freeholders acted, but we 
can not attribute to any individual the credit 
for any particular work. Yet we know that 
Cornelius Harnett was the most prominent of 
the aldermen, that he was probably the chief 



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The Stamp Act 47 

merchant of the Cape Fear, that he was at the 
head of the Sons of Liberty, and that he was one 
of the wealthiest of the gentlemen and freeholders 
of the Cape Fear. What his share in the early 
movements against the Stamp Act was, there- 
fore, may be clearly inferred, and we observe 
that as the struggle progressed the opposition 
centers more and more aroimd him, imtil at 
its climax he and Tryon stand face to face, the 
acknowledged leaders of their respective causes. 
"Before this incident," as Dr. Smith says, ^ 
''Harnett had been best known as a skillful 
financier. * * * But after his defiance of 
Tryon in 1766 — an act performed ten years 
before the Declaration of Independence and 
seven years before the Boston Tea Party — Har- 
nett became in an especial sense the leader of 
his people and the target of British malevolence 
and denimciation. Every State boasts its heroes 
of the Stamp Act, but in all the examples of resist- 
ance to this oppressive act, I find no deed that 
equals Harnett's in its blend of courage, dignity, 
and orderliness. He and Tryon had looked each 
other in the eyes, and the eyes of the Englishman 
had quailed." 

1 U. N. C. Mag., May. 1907. 385-86. 



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IV 
THE CONTINENTAL ASSOCIATION 

From the struggle over the Stamp Act was 
bom a union sentiment that contained the 
genns of nationality, and the development 
of this sentiment in the contests with the mother 
coimtry from 1765 to 1775 gives to the events 
of that decade their chief significance. Cornelius 
Harnett enlisted heartily in this movement, and 
contributed largely to its success in North 
Carolina. So far, then, as North Carolina's 
adherence to the continental or national cause 
was a factor in its success, so far must we think 
of Harnett's work as of national significance, 
and of himself as entitled to rank as among 
American statesmen. How far this was will 
appear, it is hoped, as this narrative progresses. 

The Declaratory Act, which accompanied 
the repeal of the Stamp Act, asserted the right 
of Parliament to legislate for the colonies "in 
all cases whatsoever." The Townshend Acts 
passed in Jime 1767, attempted to put this asser- 
tion into practice. Under a pretense of regu- 
lating conmierce, Parliament levied duties on 
certain conmiodities, principally tea, imported 
into the colonies, and directed that the revenues 
derived therefrom be used to pay the salaries 
of colonial officials, thus rendering them inde- 



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The Continental Association 49 

pendent of the colonial assemblies. This scheme 
gave a new impulse to the union sentiment. 
Massachusetts led the way with the famous 
circular letter of 1768 inviting the other colonies 
to unite with her in protests to the king. But 
imity of action on the part of the colonies was 
the last thing the king and ministry desired, and 
they saw in this letter nothing but an effort 
"to promote unwarrantable combinations and 
to excite and encourage an open opposition to 
and denial of the authority of Parliament." 
Accordingly they commanded the Assembly of 
Massachusetts to rescind the letter and the 
assemblies of the other colonies to treat it with 
contempt on pains of "an immediate prorogation 
or dissolution." But Massachusetts refused to 
rescind, and the other colonies applauded her 
spirit and imitated her action. 

When the Assembly of North Carolina met, 
Speaker John Harvey laid the Massachusetts 
letter before the House.^ The policy of united 
action instantly found favor. Harvey was 
authorized to return a suitable reply to Massa- 
chusetts, a committee was appointed to prepare 
an address to the king, and the agent in London 
was instructed to unite with the other colonial 
agents in efforts to procure a favorable hearing 
on the several petitions. The committee's 
address to 'the king was an able state paper, and 

1 Col. Rec., VII, 928. 
4 



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50 Cornelius Harnett 

rang true to the American doctrine of "no taxa- 
tion without representation.'' They reminded 
the king that their ancestors, when they settled in 
the New World, ''brought with them ihherent in 
their persons, and transmitted down to their pos- 
terity, all the rights and liberties" of his "natural 
bom subjects within the parent State, and have 
ever since enjoyed as Britons the privilege of 
an exemption from any taxations but such as 
have been imposed on them by themselves or 
their representatives, and this privilege we 
esteem so invaluable that we are fully convinced 
no other can possibly exist without it. It is there- 
fore with the utmost anxiety and concern we 
observe duties have lately been imposed upon 
us by Parliament for the sole and express purpose 
of raising a revenue. This is a taxation which 
we are fully persuaded the acknowledged prin- 
ciples of the British Constitution ought to pro- 
tect us from. Free men can not be legally taxed 
but by themselves or their representatives, and 
that your Majesty's subjects within this province 
are represented in Parliament we can not allow, 
and are convinced that from our situation 
we never can be."* Along with this address 
went the instructions to their agent of whom they 
required "a spirited cooperation with the agents 
of our sister colonies and those who may be dis- 
posed to serve us in obtaining a repeal of the late 
act imposing internal taxes on Americans without 

1 Col. Rec, VII, 980. 



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The Continental Association 51 

their consent." ^ In the same spirit they declared 
in their letter to the Massachusetts Assembly 
that North Carolina was "ready firmly to unite 
with her sister colonies in pursuing every consti- 
tutional measure for the repeal of the grievances 
so justly complained of."^ When this letter 
was received in Boston it was triumphantly 
declared: "The colonies no longer disconnected, 
form one body; a common sensation possesses 
the whole; the circulation is complete, and the 
vital fluid returns from whence it was sent out."^ 
As a warning to the other colonies the ministry 
selected Massachusetts for punishment. Persons 
suspected of encouraging resistance to Parliament 
were to be arrested and sent to England for trial; 
town-meetings were to be suppressed; and two 
regiments were ordered to Boston to overawe 
that town. The blow was aimed at Massachu- 
setts alone, but the other colonies promptly 
rallied to her support and raised the cry that 
Massachusetts was suflFering in the common 
cause. Virginia acted first. Her Assembly 
denounced the government's action in a series 
of spirited resolutions, and sent them to the 
other assemblies "requesting their concurrence 
therein." In consequence they suflFered disso- 
lution, but the burgesses promptly met as a 
convention, agreed on a "Non-Importation Asso- 

1 Col. Rec, VII, 877. 

« The Boston Evening Post, May 15. 1709. 

s Ibid. 



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52 Cornelius Harnett 

ciation," and circulated it throughout the colo- 
nies. 

On November 2, 1769, John Harvey laid the 
Virginia resolutions before the North Carolina 
Assembly. The House, without a dissenting 
voice, adopted them almost verhaiim, agreed on 
a second protest to the king, and instructed 
their agent, after presenting it to have it printed 
in the British papers. Convinced that the king 
was deaf to their prayers, they now began to 
appeal to their British brethren. They again 
denied the right of Parliament to levy taxes in 
America, affirmed the right of the colonies to 
unite in protests to the throne, and denoimced 
as "highly derogatory to the rights of British 
subjects" the carrying of any American to 
England for trial, "as thereby the inestimable 
privilege of being tried by a jury from the vicinage, 
as well as the liberty of smnmoning and pro- 
ducing witnesses on such trial, will be taken away 
from the party accused." "We can not without 
horror," they declared, "think of the new, unu- 
sual, * * * imconstitutional and illegal mode 
reconmiended to your Majesty of seizing and 
carrying beyond sea the inhabitants of America 
suspected of any crime, [and] of trying such 
person in any other manner than by the ancient 
and long established course of proceedings." 
"Truly alarmed at the fatal tendency of these 
pernicious coimcils," [sic], they earnestly prayed 



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The Continental Association 53 

his Majesty to interpose his protection against 
"such dangerous invasions'' of their dearest 
privileges.^ These proceedings, when reported 
to the governor, sealed the fate of that Assembly. 
Sending in haste for the House, he censured them 
for their action, declared that it "sapped the 
foimdation of confidence and gratitude," and 
made it his "indispensable duty to put an end 
to this session." 

This sudden turn of affairs caught the Assem- 
bly imprepared for dissolution. Much impor- 
tant business, especially the adoption of the 
"Non-Importation Association," remained unfin- 
ished. Everybody realized that the effective- 
ness of non-importation as a weapon for fight- 
ing the Townshend duties depended entirely 
upon the extent to which it was adopted, and 
the fidelity with which it was observed. Any 
one colony could easily defeat the whole scheme. 
When the North Carolina Assembly met in 
October, 1769, the Association had been pretty 
generally adopted by the other colonies; conse- 
quently, the action of North Carolina was 
awaited with some concern. The leaders of 
the Assembly realized the situation fully, and 
were by no means ready to go home until they 
had taken the necessary action to bring the 
colony in line with the Continental movement. 
Accordingly, immediately upon their dissolution, 
following the example of Virginia, they called 

1 Col. Rec., Vin, 121—124. 



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54 Cornelius Harnett 

the members together m convention to "take 
measures for preserving the true and essential 
interests of the province.'' John Harvey was 
unanimously elected moderator. After discus- 
sing the situation fully through a session of two 
days, the convention agreed upon a complete 
non-importation program, and recommended 
it to their constituents in order to show their 
"readiness to join heartily with the other colonies 
in every legal method which may most probably 
tend to procure a redress'' of grievances. This 
association was signed by sixty-four of "the late 
representatives of the people * * * being 
all that were then present." ^ Their names, 
unfortimately, are not recorded. When the 
policy of non-importation was tried in opposition 
to the Stamp Act it was not successful, and the 
Loyalists ridiculed the attempt of Virginia to 
revive it as a weapon against the Townshend Acts. 
But a new element had now entered into the 
situation: the union sentiment had developed 
into a reality, and the opponents of the govern- 
ment, taking advantage of this fact, pushed the 
movement with vigor and success. Colony 
after colony joined the movement, and when 
North Carolina came in, the Whig papers de- 
clared with great satisfaction: "This completes the 
chain of union throughout the continent for the 
measure of non-importation and eqonomy." ^ 

1 South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, Decembers, 1769. 
« Ibid. 



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The Continental Association 55 

But it was a simpler matter to adopt an asso- 
ciation than to enforce it. The Tories, of course, 
opposed the whole scheme, and would gladly 
have welcomed an opportunity to defeat it. 
Their chance seemed to come when in April, 1770, 
Parliament repealed all the duties except the one 
on tea. The Tories hoped and the Whigs feared 
that this concession would break up the non- 
importation associations. While the former ap- 
plauded the magnanimity of Parliament for 
yielding so much, the latter denounced the 
ministry for yielding no more, and regarding 
the partial repeal as a mere trap, redoubled 
their efforts to keep the association intact. 

In North Carolina the merchants of the Cape 
Fear were the largest importers of British goods, 
and everybody recognized that their action 
would determine the matter. No non-importa- 
tion association could be made effective without 
their cooperation. Fortunately, Cornelius Har- 
nett, one of the chief merchants of the province, 
was also chairman of the Sons of Liberty, and his 
influence went far toward determining the 
course of the Cape Fear merchants. As soon 
as information of Parliament's action reached 
Wilmington, he called a meeting of the Sons of 
Liberty in the Wilmington District to take 
proper action. A large number of "the principal 
inhabitants" attended at Wilmington, June 2, 
and "unanimously agreed to keep strictly to 



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56 Cornelius Harnett 

the non-importation agreement," and to cooper- 
ate with the other colonies ''in every legal measure 
for obtaining ample redress of the grievances 
so justly complained of." In order to make 
their resolution more effective, they chose a 
committee to consult upon such measures as 
would best evince their "patriotism and loyalty" 
to the conmaon cause, and "manifest their 
unanimity with the rest of the colonies." This 
conmaittee was composed of thirty members 
representing all the Cape Fear counties and the 
towns of Wilmington and Brunswick. Among 
its members were Cornelius Harnett, James 
Moore, Samuel Ashe, Richard Quince, and 
Farquard Campbell, the most prominent mer- 
chants and planters of the Cape Fear section. 
Cornelius Harnett was unanimously chosen 
chairman. They declared their intention to 
enforce strictly the non-importation association; 
denounced the merchants of Rhode Island "who 
contrary to their solemn and voluntary contract, 
have violated their faith pledged to the other 
colonies, and thereby shamefully deserted the 
common cause of American liberty"; declared 
that they would have no dealings with any 
merchant who imported goods "contrary to the 
spirit and intention" of the non-importation 
association; and constituted themselves a special 
committee to inspect all goods imported into 
the Cape Fear and to keep the public informed 



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The Continental Association 57 

of any that were brought in contrary to the 
association. They then ordered their resolves 
to be "immediately transmitted to all the trading 
towns in this colony"; and in the spirit of co- 
operation, Cornelius Harnett wrote to the Sons 
of Liberty of South Carolina to inform them of 
their action. In this letter he said: 

''We beg leave to assure you that the inhab- 
itants of those six counties and we doubt not 
of every county in this province, are convinced 
of thfe necessity of adhering to their former 
resolutions, and you may depend, they are 
tenacious of their just rights as any of their 
brethren on the continent and firmly resolved 
to stand or fall with them in support of the 
common cause of American hberty. Worthless 
men * * * are the production of every 
coimtry, and we are also imhappy as to have a 
few among us 'who have not virtue enough to 
resist the allurement of present gain.' Yet we 
can venture to assert, that the people in general 
of this colony, will be spirited and steady in 
support of their rights as English subjects, and 
will not tamely submit to the yoke of oppression. 
'But if by the iron hand of power,' they are at 
last crushed; it is however their fixed resolution, 
either to fall with the same dignity and spirit 
you so justly mention, or transmit to their 
posterity entire, the inestimable blessings of our 
free Constitution. The disinterested and public 



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58 Cornelius Harnett 

spirited behaviour of the merchants and other 
inhabitants of your colony justly merits the 
applause of every lover of liberty on the conti- 
nent. The people of any colony who have not 
virtue enough to follow so glorious examples 
must be lost to every sense of freedom and con- 
sequently deserve to be slaves." * 

The interchange of such views and opinions 
among the several colonies greatly strengthened 
the union sentiment; while the practical opera- 
tion of the non-importation associations revealed 
to both the Americans and the ministry the 
power that lay in a united America. 

In the meantime, while Cornelius Harnett 
and his colleagues were struggling with the 
authority of Parliament and bending all their 
energy toward the continental movement, dissen- 
sions in the interior coimties of North Carolina 
came near to counteracting all the good results 
of their work. It must be assumed here that the 
reader is familiar with the history of the Regula- 
tors. The story has been told and retold with 
much feeling until it has become one of the most 
hotly controverted chapters in the history of 
North Carolina. The controversies, however, 
do not grow out of a difference of opinion relative 
to the facts. These are pretty well agreed upon, 
but from the same facts historians have drawn 
widely different conclusions. One see*^ in the 

1 South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, July 5, 1770: July 
26, 1770, and August 9, 1770. 



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The Continental Association 59 

Regulators a devoted band of patriots who 
fired the opening gun ot the Revolution; the 
other sees a disorganized mob whose success 
would have resulted in anarchy. Here we are 
concerned only with the views of Cornelius 
Harnett and the other Revolutionary leaders. 
Cornelius Harnett sympathized with the griev- 
ances of the Regulators. They were excessive 
taxes, extortionate fees, and dishonest officials. 
Neither Tryon nor the men who followed him 
denied that they had cause for complaint. In 
a message to the Assembly in December, 1770, 
excellent in style and admirable in spirit, Tryon 
reconmaended the most scrupulous inquiries 
into the complaints against the public officials 
and the redress of those which had an existence.* 
A few days later Cornelius Harnett, chairman 
of the committee on propositions and grievances, 
reported as the opinion of the committee that 
officers who exacted greater fees than the law 
allowed were guilty of a very great grievance; 
that the acceptance of fees by members of the 
Assembly for securing the passage of private 
bills was illegal; and that the custom which 
had grown up in the courts of prosecuting prin- 
cipal debtors and their securities, when all the 
parties were living, in different actions though 
bound in one specialty, was a great grievance 
that tended only to increase the fees of attorneys, 
clerks, sheriffs and other officials. He therefore 

1 Col. Rec., VIII, 282. 



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60 Cornelius Harnett 

recommended the passage of an act plainly 
ascertaining what fees the officers were entitled 
to receive/ The Assembly appeared to be so 
ready to listen to the complaints of the Regula- 
tors that James Iredell declared that a majority 
of the House were of regulating principles, and 
had not only determined on a leveling plan, but 
would be very reluctant to pass any law for a 
spirited vindication of the honor of the govern- 
ment. It seems clear that legal remedies would 
have been provided for their grievances had the 
Regulators been willing to wait upon the slow 
process of lawmaking. That the law needed 
amendment was not denied, but the Assembly 
wisely thought that hasty and ill considered 
changes would likely produce more and greater 
evils than they removed. Reformers rarely 
take this fact into consideration; they see only the 
evil which they wish to remove and, intent 
upon that, are blind to the other, and sometimes 
greater evils into which their plans would lead. 
The reformer is by nature a radical, the law- 
maker is, or ought to be a conservative, and when 
he does not move fast enough for the reformer, 
the reformer becomes impatient and is more than 
likely to run into excesses in words or deeds. 
So it was with the Regulators. Impatience 
at what they thought the indifference of the 
colonial government to their grievances led them 
into excesses which not even their warmest 



1 Col. Rec, VIII, 388—89. 



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The Continental Association 61 

sympathizers can condone. For, to break into 
courts of justice, driving judges from the bench; 
to "tear down justice from her tribunal," and 
insultingly to set up mock courts filling the 
records with billingsgate and profanity; to 
drag unoffending attorneys through the streets 
at the peril of their lives, and wantonly to assault 
peaceful citizens for refusing to sjonpathize 
with lawlessness, — these are not proper methods 
of redressing grievances, however oppressive, 
in a civilized community under a government 
based upon the will of the people. 

Such were the methods that lost the Regulators 
the sjrmpathy and support of Cornelius Harnett 
and his colleagues, and compelled both the 
king's governor and the people's Assembly to 
look less to the i:edress of grievances than to 
the suppression of anarchy. Harnett in the 
report already quoted declared that the Regu- 
lators by obstructing the sheriffs in the collection 
of public taxes and by the many outrages and 
riotous proceedings in opposition to the courts 
of justice which they had committed, were 
guilty of a real grievance, detrimental to the 
good order of society, and manifestly tending to 
distress the peaceable and loyaJ subjects of the 
province who were compelled to pay taxes for 
the support of the government: and he recom- 
mended that the ringleaders of the insurgents 
be compelled by law to answer for their conduct 



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62 Cornelius Harnett 

and prevented from committing such outrages 
in the future. A conmiittee of which Harnett, 
and other Revolutionary patriots, were members 
drafted a message to the governor, which was 
adopted by the Assembly, denouncing the 
"daring and insolent attack" of the Regulators 
on the court at Hillsboro; declaring that their 
"dissolute principles and licentious spirit" ren- 
dered them too formidable for the ordinary 
process of the law; and reconmaending the 
adoption of "measures at once spirited and 
decisive."* The measure adopted was intro- 
duced by Samuel Johnston and is known as the 
"Johnston Act." It was imdoubtedly an unwise 
and excessively severe law. As has been truly 
said: "It is doubtful if so drastic a measure 
ever passed an[other] American Assembly"; 
but the Assembly felt, as James Iredell said, 
commenting on it, that "desperate diseases 
must have desperate remedies." ^ 

It is not difficult to understand the feelings of 
the leaders in the Assembly. They were keenly 
aware of the injury the conduct of the Regu- 
lators would do to the American cause in England. 
Though the opposition to the Stamp Act and the 
Townshend Acts had been firm and decided, 
it had been carried on peaceably and orderly: 
yet the Americans had been freely denoimced 
in England as lawless and violent men, delighting 

1 Col. Rec, Vin, 311— 313* 
« Col. Rec.,VIII, 270. 



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The Continental Association 63 

in riot and rebellion. They had found it by no 
means the easiest part of their work to counteract 
this view even among those Who wished them well. 
The proceedings of the Regulators, when reported 
to the home government, could not fail to give 
to their enemies a decided advantage, for the 
people of the mother country would draw no 
distinction between the Sons of Liberty on the 
Cape Fear and the Regulators on the Eno. All 
would be classed as rebellious subjects who 
deserved punishment. It was doubtless the 
realization of this fact that induced the Assembly 
to adopt such a drastic policy toward the Regu- 
lators. 

Cornelius Harnett was in thorough sympathy 
with this policy and when Tryon marched to Ala- 
mance, Harnett marched with him to give his 
support to the expedition which he had urged 
the governor to make. He served as a volunteer 
holding neither military rank nor civil office, but 
his services were of such value that the Assembly 
gave them special recognition. In December, 
1771, the House '^taking into consideration the ac- 
count of Mr. Cornelius Harnett in the late expe- 
dition against the insurgents and fully convinced 
of the great service rendered his coimtry by his 
zeal and activity therein,'' voted to allow him £100 
"to defray the extraordinary expenses he was at in 
that service." When this resolution was received 
in the Council that body expressed pleasure 



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64 Cornelius Harnett 

at the opportunity of showing its appreciation 
of Harnett's "merit and good services.'' But 
when the Council requested that for similar 
services a similar recognition be given to Samuel 
Cornell, a member of the Council, the other 
House declined, explaining that the allowance 
to Harnett was made not only because his 
services entitled him to the notice of the Assembly, 
but also because he had not been in any office 
or employment from which he could possibly 
derive any compensation for the great expenses 
he had incurred in that expedition. This explan- 
ation satisfied the Council and the resolution 
was adopted. ^ 

But the question arises. Did the Regulators 
begin the Revolution and at Alamance shed the 
first blood in the cause of independence? As 
we answer this question we must condemn or 
conmaend the attitude of Cornelius Harnett 
toward them. The Regulators made no such 
claim for themselves: on the contrary when an 
opportunity was offered to fight for independence 
they arrayed themselves against it. The oath 
which Tryon compelled them to take after the 
battle of Alamance is pleaded as sufficient expla- 
nation of their course during the Revolution; 
but every American who pleaded the cause or 
fought the battles of independence had repeatedly 
taken a similar oath. There is a fimdamental 
difference, which Dr. Bassett points out, between 

1 Col. Rcc., IX, 196—205. 



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The Continental Association 65 

the Regulation and the Revolution. * The Regu- 
lators were not contending for a great constitu- 
tional principle lying at the very foundation of 
human government such as inspired the men 
who fought the Revolution. Every grievance of 
which the former complained could have been re- 
moved by their own representatives in an Assembly 
freely chosen by the people; the American people 
sent no representatives to the British Parlia- 
ment. The former, therefore, resisted oppressive 
methods of administering laws passed by their 
own representatives; the latter, it need scarcely 
be said, revolted against taxation without repre- 
sentation. The one was an insurrection, the 
other a revolution. The distinction is plain 
and goes to the root of the whole matter. A 
revolution involves a change of principles in 
government and is constitutional in its signifi- 
cance; an insurrection is an uprising of indi- 
viduals to prevent the execution of laws and 
aims at a change of agents who administer, or 
the manner of administering affairs under forms 
or principles that remain intact. There is of 
course all the difference in the world between 
the two. It is this difference, for instance, that 
raises the resistance to the Stamp Act on the 
Cape Fear far above the revolt of the Regulators 
in dignity and significance, and elevates the 

1 "The Regulatora of North Carolina ": Report of the American 
Hlatorioal Aasooiation, 1804, 141—212. 



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66 Cornelius Habnbtt 

former but not the latter above the level of a 
riot. The Americans denied the validity of 
the Stamp Act because in passing it Parliament, 
as they thought, assimied to itself an authority 
which it did not rightfully possess, and thus 
undermined their constitutional liberties. The 
Regulators did not dispute the constitutional 
right of the Assembly to enact the laws of which 
they complained; they objected to the improper 
execution of those laws. The principles of the 
former contest did not die with the repeal of 
the Stamp Act, but became the living issues in 
the great Revolution. The movement of the 
{legulators expended itself at Alamance and 
died out with the removal of the causes which 
gave rise to it. However just the cause of the 
Regulators may have been, it did not involve 
a vital principle of political freedom, and it seems 
clear that it is a total misconception of the real 
significance of the American Revolution to call 
Alamance the first battle in the cause of inde- 
pendence. 

Cornelius Harnett imderstood this. He was 
too clear-sighted and practical a statesman not 
to see that the movement of the Regulators 
was antagonistic to the continental movement 
against the encroachments of the British Parlia- 
ment. He "had neither the mind of a visionary 
nor the temper of an insurrectionist. * * * He 
saw clearly that the Regulators were held together 



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The Continental Association 67 

not by the cohesion of principle but merely by 
a common hatred of government officials and 
a determination to wreak vengeance upon them. 
No man felt more keenly than Harnett the 
difference between liberty and license." It was 
for him and the "other far-sighted leaders who 
rallied around him" to show ''to the world that 
the Revolution in North Carolina was to be led 
by men who knew as by instinct the difference 
between lawlessness and self-government, who 
had weighed the questions at issue in the scale 
of pure principle, and who ceased to be loyal to 
England only that they might pledge undying 
loyalty to the spirit of liberty."^ Liberty 
regulated by law was the goal at which they 
aimed. When the tyranny of a king threatened 
the one, and when the anarchy of a mob endan- 
gered the other, Cornelius Harnett was equally 
ready to sacrifice himself and his fortune in 
resistance. 



1 Smith: U. N. C. Mag., May, 1907, 387-88. 



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V 
COMMITTEES OF CORRESPONDENCE 

Soon after his victory at Alamance, Tryon 
left North Carolina for New York. He was 
succeeded by Josiah Martin. Martin, as Saun- 
ders observes, was a man ill calculated to conduct 
an administration successfully even in ordinary 
times. Stubborn and tactless, obsequious to 
those in authority and overbearing to those 
under authority, he found himself suddenly 
placed in a position that required almost every 
quality of mind and character that he did not 
possess. He was, it is true, an honest man, but 
he was intolerant and knew nothing of the art 
of diplomacy. Sincerely devoted to the king, 
whom he thought it no degradation to regard 
literally as a master, he had no faith in the 
sincerity of the Americans when in one breath 
they declared their loyalty to the Crown and in 
the next demanded from the Crown a recogni- 
tion of their constitutional rights. "Insufferably 
tedious and turgid, his dispatches make the tired 
reader long for the well-constructed, clear-cut 
sentences and polished impertinences of Tryon, ' ' * 
and show that he was utterly incapable of under- 
standing the people whom he had been sent to 
rule. No worse selection could have been made 
at that time; the people of North Carolina 

1 Col. Rec.. Prefatory Notes, IX, Ul— Iv. 



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Committees of Correspondence 69 

were in no mood to brook the petty tyranny of 
a provincial governor, and Martin's personality 
became one of the chief factors that drove North 
Carolina headlong into revolution and prepared 
the colony, first of all the colonies, to take a 
definite stand for independence. 

Their experience with the Stamp Act and the 
Townshend Act, taught the king and ministry 
the power that lay in a united America, and 
henceforth they avoided as far as possible such 
measures as would give the colonies a conmaon 
grievance upon which they could unite. Their 
change of policy embraced two principles which 
the Americans promptly repudiated. One was the 
principle of the Declaratory Act. The other was 
the assumption that the king's instructions to the 
provincial governors were of higher authority than 
acts of assembUes and were binding on both 
assemblies and governors. For the next three 
years these instructions "played an important 
part in American politics. * * * They came 
imder the king's sign manual, with the privy 
seal annexed. It was said that officials could 
not refuse to execute them without giving up 
the rights of the Crown. A set was not framed 
to apply to all the colonies alike, but special 
instructions were sent to each colony as local cir- 
cumstances dictated. Hence the patriots could not 
create a general issue on them." ' The Ameri- 
cans at once perceived their danger, and were 

1 Frothingham: "The Rise of the Republic of the United States," 252. 



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70 Cornelius Harnett 

not to be caught in the trap; for when they came 
a few years later to adopt a Declaration of 
Independence, .this policy of the king was one 
of the "facts submitted to a candid world/' 
in justification of their action. 

In North Carolina the issue was raised between 
the governor and the Assembly over the financial 
policy of the province, and over the location 
of the boundary line between North Carolina 
and South Carolina; but the decisive battle 
against royal instructions was fought over 
the Assembly's efforts to frame a court-law. 
The point at issue was the "foreign attachment 
clause." British merchants who transacted busi- 
ness in the province through agents without 
ever being here in person, became in course of 
time extensive landowners here. The Tryon 
court-law contained a clause empowering the 
colonial courts to attach this property for debts 
owed by such merchants to North Carolinians. 
The merchants objected to the clause, but the 
king refused to veto the act because by its own 
provision it was to expire at the end of five years 
and he expected, when a new bill was framed, 
to have the clause omitted without interfering 
with the business of the courts. Accordingly 
he instructed Governor Martin not to pass any 
bill containing the attachment clause. ^ 

The struggle began in the Assembly of January, 
1773, and during that and the next two sessions 

1 Col. Reo., IX. 236-36. 



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Committees of Correspondence 71 

was the occasion of one of the best conducted 
debates in the history of the colonial Assembly. ^ 
Both sides maintained their positions with ability. 
On the part of the Assembly William Hooper 
and Samuel Johnston, both lawyers, Robert 
Howe and Cornelius Harnett, both laymen, 
bore the brunt of the battle. On the other side 
the governor was ably supported by the Council. 
The Council declined to pass the Assembly's 
bill unless it was so amended as to provide that 
attachment proceedings should be "according 
to the laws and statutes of England."^ But the 
Assembly reminded the Council that in England 
such proceedings existed by municipal custom, 
not by statute, and were "so essentially local" 
in their application "as not to admit of being 
extended by any analogy to this province." 
They contended that "to secure a privilege so 
important the mode of obtaining it should be 
grounded in certainty, the law positive and 
express, and nothing left to the exercise of doubt 
or discretion."^ They therefore rejected the 
Council's amendment. After much debate a 
compromise was effected by the addition of a 
clause suspending the operation of the act until 
the king's pleasure could be learned. The 
Assembly thereupon sent it to their agent with 
instructions to leave no stone unturned to secure 

1 The proceedings of these assemblies are printed in the Colonial 
Records of North Carohna, IX, 376—591, 706—788, 831—950. 
« Col. Rec, IX, 427. 
« Col. Rec, IX. 558—560 



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72 Cornelius Harnett 

the royal signature. He was to say to the king 
that "so important does this matter appear to 
this province that they can not by any means 
think of giving it up, * * * choosing rather 
the misfortune of a temporary deprivation of 
laws than to form any system whereby they may 
be left without remedy on this great point." ^ 

To this appeal the king replied by rejecting 
the bill and instructing Governor Martin to 
create courts of oyer and terminer by the exercise 
of the "ever ready prerogative." Thus another 
element of discord was injected into the con- 
troversy, for when the Assembly met in 
December, the governor was compelled to inform 
them of the "royal disallowance" of the court- 
law, and at the same time to ask for money to 
meet the expenses of his prerogative courts. 
The Assembly's refusal was sharp and peremp- 
tory. They declared that while "one of the 
greatest calamities to which any political society 
can be liable," the suspension of the judicial 
powers of the government, had befallen the prov- 
ince, and no hope of redress through "the 
interposition of government" remained, "yet 
the misery of such a situation vanishes in com- 
petition with a mode of redress exercised by 
courts unconstitutionally framed: it is the blessed 
distinction of the British code of laws that our 
civil and criminal jurisdiction have their founda- 
tion in the laws of the land, and are regulated 

1 Col. Rec, IX, 678-680. 



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Committees of Correspondence 73 

by principles as fixed as the Constitution. We 
humbly conceive that the power of issuing com- 
missions of oyer and terminer and general gaol 
delivery, delegated by his Majesty to your 
Excellency, can not be legally carried into exe- 
cution without the aid of the legislature of this 
province, and that we can not consistent with the 
justice due to our constituents make provision 
for defraying the expense attending a measure 
which we do not approve." * 

The governor and his Council protested, 
argued, pleaded, and threatened. The Council 
predicted that unless courts were speedily 
established the "province must soon be deserted 
by its inhabitants and an end put to its name 
and political existence," and reproached the 
House for bringing the colony to this distressed 
situation "for the sake only of a comparatively 
small advantage supposed to lie in a mode of 
proceeding by attachment, a proceeding unknown 
both to the common and statute law of the mother 
country." ^ This message drew fire from the 
House. The issue now involved much more 
than a mere legal procedure; the independence 
of the Assembly as a legislative body was at 
stake. Was the Assembly, in the future, to be 
a lawmaking body, representing the people, or 
a mere machine for registering the will of the 
sovereign? "Appointed by the people," retorted 

1 Col. Rec., IX, 742—743. 
« Col. Rec, IX. 768—770. 



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74 Cornelius Harnett 

the House, ''to watch over theu* rights and 
privileges, and to guard them from every encroach- 
ment of a private and pubUc nature, it becomes 
our duty and will be our constant endeavor to 
preserve them secure and inviolate to the present 
age, and to transmit them unimpaired to pos- 
terity. * * * The rules of right and wrong, 
the limits of the prerogative of the Crown and of 
the privileges of the people are, in the present 
refined age, well known and ascertained; to ex- 
ceed either of them is highly unjustifiable. Were 
the attachment law as formerly enjoyed by us 
as small an advantage * * * as you contend 
it is, the right we possess to that is equal to the 
rights to a more important object; in the smallest, 
it [a surrender of the right] is bartering the 
rights of a people for a present convenience, 
in a greater, it would be the same crime aggra- 
vated only by its circumstances. We observe 
with surprise that a doctrine maintained by a 
former House of Assembly is now adopted by 
you, and that you disclose as your opinion that 
attachments are not known to the common or 
statute law of England; what then did govern- 
ment tender to this people in lieu of their former 
mode, when it proffered to the last Assembly 
a mode of attachment agreeable to the laws of 
England^ » 

Finding appeals to loyalty and threats of 
punishment equally unavailing, and caught in 

1 Col. Rec, IX. 779—782. 



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Committees of Correspondence 75 

his inconsistency, the governor determined to 
send the members home to consult their constit- 
uents, and accordingly sent his private secretary 
to command the House to attend him at the 
Palace. Knowing well enough what this meant, 
the House took a parting shot well calculated 
to ruJHe his spirits. A committee was appointed 
to draw an address to the king, and was instructed 
"as the most effectual means to promote its 
success," to request Governor Tryon, "who 
happily for this country for many years presided 
over it, and of whose good intentions to its 
welfare we feel the fullest convictions,'' to forward 
it to his Majesty and support it "with his interest 
and influence." He was asked to "accept of this 
important trust as testimony of the great affection 
this colony bears him, and the entire confidence 
they repose in him." The members of the 
committee to prepare this address were Harvey, 
Johnston, Howe, Ashe, Hooper, Hewes, Isaac 
Edwards and Harnett.^ After adopting this 
insulting resolution as much to show their con- 
tempt for Martin as their regard for Tryon, 
the members of the House proceeded to the 
Palace where they were dismissed. 

But it was useless for the governor to appeal 
from the Assembly to the people; it was but an 
appeal from the teachers to the taught. To 
send the former back to their constituents was 
but to send them to gather fresh endorsements 

1 Col. Rec, IX, 786-787. 



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76 Cornelius Harnett 

and receive renewed support in their contest. 
When they returned in March, 1774, Cornelius 
Harnett, who reported the Assembly's reply 
to the governor's message, told the governor 
that they had consulted the people, had stated 
to them candidly the point for which they con- 
tended, and had informed them how far the 
king was disposed to indulge their wishes. 
"These facts," he declared, "we have represented 
to them fairly, disdaining any equivocation or 
reserve that might leave them ignorant of the 
conduct we have pursued or the real motives 
that influenced it. And we have the heartfelt 
satisfaction to inform your Excellency that they 
have expressed their warmest approbation of 
our past proceedings, and have given us positive 
instructions to persist in our endeavours to 
obtain the process of foreign attachments upon 
the most liberal and ample footing." ^ To this 
message the governor replied in one of his few 
really good papers. He wrote with conflicting 
feelings for he was compelled to defend an instruc- 
tion of his master with which he did not entirely 
sympathize. Passing by the "just exultation" 
with which the Assembly told him of their 
constituents' approval of their course, he made 
an eloquent plea for compromise.* But the 
Assembly stood firm, passed the usual bill with 
the usual clause, and, declaring that they had 

1 Col. Rec., IX, 879—880. 
« Col. Rec., IX, 890—893. 



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Committees of Correspondence 77 

pursued every measure to relieve the colony 
from its distressed condition, sent it to the 
governor. The governor rejected it. This 
brought the struggle to an end for the only other 
Assembly that met in North Carolina imder 
royal rule was in session but four stormy days 
and did not have time to consider the court- 
law. North Carolina, therefore, remained with- 
out courts for the trial of civil causes xmtil after 
independence was declared; and among the 
causes recited in the Declaration of Independence 
to justify that action, was the following: "He 
[the king] has obstructed the administration of 
justice, by refusing his assent to laws for estab- 
lishing judiciary powers." 

The situation in North Carolina was indeed 
serious. In March, 1773, Josiah Quincy, Jr., 
of Boston, traveling through the province, 
noted that but five provincial laws were in force, 
that no courts were open, that no one could 
recover a debt except for small sums within 
the jurisdiction of a magistrate's court, and that 
offenders escaped with impimity. "The people," 
he declared, "are in great consternation about 
the matter; what will be the result is problem- 
atical." ^ Many were disposed to charge the 
whole trouble to the governor. They did not 
believe that he had "properly or judiciously 
explained to the government at home" the 
necessity for the protection they sought; and 

1 Memoir of the Life of Josiah Quincy, Jr., 117 et seq. 



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78 Cornelius Harnett 

they charged to his "spirit of intolerance and 
impatience" the failure of the Assembly to pass 
a county court-law, "the jurisdiction of which 
would have been so limited that it could not 
possibly have operated to the disfavor of any 
British merchant/' and the want of which 
subjected the people of the province to innumer- 
able inconveniences. ^ But there was no dispo- 
sition on the part of the Whig leaders to shirk 
their own responsibility. Fortunately they 
received loyal support from their constituents, 
who chose rather to bear all the inconveniences 
of the situation than to surrender the independ- 
ence of their judiciary. The royal government 
was thoroughly beaten because the people made 
anarchy tolerable. 

The Whig leaders saw through the policy 
of the king in trying to avoid a general issue, 
and held many an anxious conference to devise 
a working plan for united action. One of the 
most important, as it was one of the most inter- 
esting of these conferences, was held between 
Josiah Quincy, Jr., of Massachusetts, and Corne- 
lius Harnett, of North Carolina, at the home 
of the latter on the Cape Fear. Quincy arrived 
at Brunswick March 26, and spent the next 
five days enjoying the hospitality of the Cape 
Fear patriots. He found William Hill "warmly 
attached to the cause of American freedom": 



1 **A portrait of North Carolina" by "A Freeholder," In the Cape 
Fear Mercury February, 23, 1774, copied in the South Carolina Gaaette 
and Country Journal, March 14, 1774. 



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Committees of Correspondence 79 

William Dry ''seemingly warm against the meas- 
ures of British and continental administration"; 
William Hooper "apparently in the Whig 
interest." The night of March 30th he spent 
at the home of Cornelius Harnett. Here all 
doubt of his host's political sentiments vanished. 
"Spent the night," he records, "at Mr. Harnett's, 
the Samuer Adams of North Carolina (except 
in point of fortune.) Robert Howe Esq., Har- 
nett and myself made the social triimivirate 
of the evening. The plan of continental cor- 
respondence highly relished, much wished for, 
and resolved upon as proper to be pursued." 
Tradition aflSrms that Quincy, delighted at 
finding Harnett's views coinciding so entirely 
with his own, was unable to refrain from giving 
his host a cordial embrace. Both esteemed 
the opportunity for further conference of such 
importance that Quincy remained with Harnett 
through the next day and night. * 

No other man whom he met in his travels, 
seems to have made such a strong impression 
on Quincy as Harnett. Though he talked and 
dined and wined with the leading men in the 
southern and middle colonies, "he nowhere else 
likens any one to his beau-ideal, Samuel Adams." 
At that time Adams was probably the most 
influential political personality on the continent. 
Quincy was one of his "foster children"; perhaps 

1 Memoir of the Life of Josiah Quincy, Jr., 120. 



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80 CoRNELiirs Harnett 

his most intimate political follower. His con- 
ference with Harnett, therefore, was almost 
like a personal conference between Samuel 
Adams, the pioneer of independence in the North, 
and Cornelius Harnett, the pioneer of independ- 
ence in the South. 

The "plan of continental correspondence" 
was, of course, original with neither Quincy 
nor Harnett. Samuel Adams had already put 
a system of provincial correspondence into 
operation in Massachusetts; and a few days 
before Quincy reached North Carolina, but too 
late for the news to have reached Wilmington, 
the Virginia Assembly had proposed to the 
other assemblies the organization of a system 
of inter-colonial committees to carry on a "con- 
tinental correspondence." During the summer 
several of the colonies adopted the plan. The 
decision of North Carolina had been practically 
settled at Wilmington in March, but as the 
Assembly did not meet until December, no 
committee was appointed. On the second day 
of the session, John Harvey, the speaker, laid 
the Virginia resolutions before the House; and 
Howe, Harnett and Johnston were appointed 
a committee to draw an answer. In their report 
they recommended hearty concurrence in the 
"spirited resolves" of the Virginia Assembly, 
and the appointment of a conmiittee of corres- 
pondence to consist of Harvey, Howe, Harnett, 



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Committees of Correspondence 81 

Hooper, Caswell, Edward Vail, Ashe, Hewes and 
Johnston.^ The work of this committee bore 
good fruit, for the members brought to their 
task a truly national spirit in dealing with con- 
tinental affairs. To use a modern political 
term, they adopted a platform in which they 
declared that the inhabitants of all the colonies 
"ought to consider themselves interested in 
the cause of the town of Boston as the cause 
. of America in general"; that they would "concur 
with and cooperate in such measures as may be 
concerted and agreed on by their sister colonies" 
for resisting the measures of the British ministry, 
and that in order to promote "conformity and 
unanimity in the councils of America," a Con- 
tinental Congress was "absolutely necessary."* 
The significance of this system of committees 
was soon apparent. Indeed, as John Fiske 
declares, it "was nothing less than the beginning 
of the American union. * * * It only remained 
for the various inter-colonial committees to as- 
semble together, and there would be a congress 
speaking in the name of the continent."^ 

The suggestion for such a congress followed 
inxmediately and instantly found favor. It 
was intended that the delegates should be chosen 
by the assemblies. In North Carolina, Governor 
Martin, after the stormy session of March, 1774, 

1 Col. Reo., IX, 740-741. 
« State Records, XI, 246—248. 
> The American Revolution, I, 81. 
6 



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82 Cornelius Harnett 

made up his mind to follow the example of 
Tryon and do without an assembly until he saw 
a chance for a better one. But Martin lacked 
a good deal of Tryon's shrewdness and popularity, 
and the men who led the Assembly were not the 
kind to be caught twice in the same trap. When 
the governor's secretary communicated this 
purpose to John Harvey, Harvey, "in a very 
violent mood" exclaimed: "In that case the 
people will call an assembly independent of the 
governor." He determined to issue over his own 
name a call for a provincial congress, and those 
whom he consulted expressed their approval.^ 
It was thought better, however, for the call to 
proceed from some other source, so a mass 
meeting at Wilmington launched the movement 
July 21 f and on August 25, seventy-one delegates 
from thirty-six counties and towns met in con- 
vention at New Bern. ^ Cornelius Harnett spent 
the summer of 1774 in the North and, therefore, 
was not a member of this Congress. The Con- 
gress gave expression to the American position 
on the issues in dispute with the mother coxmtry 
in a series of spirited and clear-cut resolutions; 
declared for a Continental Congress, and elected 
Hooper, Hewes and Caswell delegates. John Har- 
vey, the moderator, was authorized to call another 
Congress whenever he deemed it necessary. 

1 Col. Rec, IX, 968. 
« Col. Rec., IX, 1016. 
« Col. Rec, IX, 1041—1049. 



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Committees op Correspondence 83 

No more significant step had ever been taken 
in North Carolina than the successful meeting 
of this Congress. It revealed the people to 
themselves. They began to understand that 
there was no peculiar power in the writs and 
proclamations of a royal governor; they them- 
selves could elect delegates and organize legis- 
latures without the intervention of a king's author- 
ity, and this was a long step toward independence. 

Seeing that he was beaten, Martin determined 
to make the best of a bad situation, and called 
an assembly to meet at New Bern, April 4, 1775. 
John Harvey promptly called a congress to meet 
at the same place, April 3. Of the two bodies 
the Congress was the larger, but as a rule the 
members of the Assembly were also members of 
the Congress. Cornelius Harnett represented his 
old constituents in both bodies. The governor 
was furious and denounced Harvey's action in 
a resounding proclamation. The Congress re- 
plied by electing Harvey moderator, and the 
Assembly by electing him speaker. The govern- 
or roundly scored both bodies, and both bodies 
roundly scored the governor. It was, indeed, 
a pretty situation. One set of men composed 
two assemblies, one legal, sitting by authority 
of the royal governor and in obedience to his 
writ; the other illegal, sitting in defiance of his 
authority and in disobedience of his proclama- 
tion. The governor impotently called on the 



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84 CoKNELius Haknett 

former to join him in dispersing the latter. The 
two assemblies met in the same hall and were 
presided over by the same man/ "When the 
governor's private secretary was annoimced at 
the door, in an instant, in the twinkling of an 
eye, Mr. Moderator Harvey * * * would 
become Mr. Speaker Harvey * * * and gravely 
receive his Excellency's message."' 

Neither body accomplished much. The Con- 
gress approved the Continental Association 
adopted by the Continental Congress and recom- 
mended it to the people of the province; thanked 
their delegates to the Continental Congress for 
their services and reelected them; and author- 
ized John Harvey, or in the event of his death, 
Samuel Johnston, to call another congress when 
necessary, and then adjourned sine die. The 
Assembly had but time to organize and exchange 
messages with the governor when it too came 
to an end. The first offense was the election 
of John Harvey speaker. The governor winced 
at this, but held his peace. "The manner, 
however, of my admitting him,'' he wrote, "1 
believe, sufficiently testified my disapprobation 
of his conduct while it marked my respect for the 
election of the House." The second day the 
House offended again by inviting the delegates 
to the Congress, who were not also members of 
the Assembly, to join in the latter's deliberations. 

1 Col. Reo., IX, 1125, 1146, 1177, 1178—1185, 1187—1206. 
* Col. Rec., Prefatory Notes, IX, xxxiv. 



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Committees op Cokrespondence 85 

The governor promptly issued his proclamation 
forbidding this unholy union, but "not a man 
obeyed it." On the fourth day the House 
adopted resolutions approving the Continental 
Association, thanking the delegates to the Con- 
tinental Congress for their services, and endorsing 
their election. This was more than Martin had 
bargained for; his wrath boiled over, and on 
April 8, 1776, he issued his proclamation dissolving 
the Assembly. Thus he put an end to the last 
Assembly that ever sat in North Carolina at 
the call of a royal governor, and by its dissolution 
brought British rule in that province to a close 
forever. 



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VI 
COMMITTEES OF SAFETY 

In order to provide an executive authority to 
enforce its policy, the Congress of August, 1774, 
recommended that ''a committee of five persons 
be chosen in each coimty" for that purpose/ 
The Continental Congress in October recom- 
mended a similar system throughout the thirteen 
colonies. In North Carolina the plan as finally 
worked out contemplated one committee in each 
of the towns, one in each of the counties, one 
in each of the six military districts, and one for 
the province at large. In all our history there 
has been nothing else like these committees. 
Born of necessity, originating in the political 
and economic confusion of the time, they touched 
the lives of the people in their most intimate 
affairs, and gradually extended their jurisdiction 
until they assumed to themselves all the functions 
of government. They enforced with vigor the 
resolves of the Continental and Provincial 
Congresses, some of which were most exacting 
in their demands and burdensome in their eflFects. 
They conducted inquiries into the actions and 
opinions of individuals, and not only ''determined 
what acts and opinions constituted a man an en- 
emy of his country, but passed upon his guilt or 
innocence, and fixed his punishment." They 

1 Col. Rec.. IX, 1047. 



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Committees op Safety 87 

raised money by fines and assessments for the pur- 
chase of gunpowder, arms, and all the other imple- 
ments of war. The militia had to be enlisted, or- 
ganized, equipped and drilled. In short, a revolu- 
tion had to be inaugurated and it fell to these 
committees to do it. "Usurping some new author- 
ity every day, executive, judicial or legislative, 
as the case might be, their powers soon became 
practically unlimited." Governor Martin char- 
acterized them as "extraordinary tribimals." 
In every respect they were extraordinary, insur- 
rectionary, revolutionary. Illegally consti- 
tuted, they assumed such authority as would 
not have been tolerated in the royal government, 
and received such obedience as the king with all 
his armies could not have exacted. Yet not only 
did they not abuse their power, they voluntarily 
resigned it when the public welfare no longer 
needed their services. They were the oJBfspring 
of misrule and rose and fell with their parent. 

The most active and effective of these com- 
mittees were those of Wilmington and New 
Hanover. Of these Cornelius Harnett was the 
master-spirit. When the Wilmington committee 
was organized, November 23, 1774, though he 
was then absent from the province, he was 
unanimously elected chairman. When the New 
Hanover county committee was organized, Jan- 
uary 4, 1775, "to join and cooperate with the 
committee of the town," he was promptly 



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88 Cornelius Harnett 

placed at the head of the joint committee. The 
people were fully alive to the importance of the 
step they took in organizing these committees. 
The men whom they selected represented the 
wealth, the intelligence and the culture of the 
community. They were men of approved charac- 
ter and ability. Some of them afterwards achieved 
eminence in the history of North Carolina. 
Seldom have men entrusted with such extensive 
authority fulfilled their trust with greater fidelity. 
They discharged every duty with firmness and 
patience, with prudence and wisdom, and in the 
interest of the public welfare. From the first, 
we are told, Cornelius Harnett was "the very 
soul of the enterprise," "the life-breathing spirit 
of liberty among the people," possessing their 
confidence "to an extent that seems incredible." ^ 
Archibald Maclaine Hooper says: "The first 
motions of disaffection on the Cape Fear were 
prompted by him. When the conjunction favor- 
able for his projects arrived, he kept concealed 
behind the curtain, while the puppets of the 
drama were stirred by his wires into acts of 
turbulence and disloyalty. Afterwards when a 
meeting was convened at Wilmington, he was 
bold in the avowal of his sentiments and in the 
expression of his opinions." As chairman of 
the joint committee, by his activity in "warning 
and watching the disaffected, encouraging the 
timid, collecting the means of defense, and com- 

1 U. N. C. Mag., IV, 136. 



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Committees of Safety 89 

municating its enthusiasm to all orders/' he 
made this local conmiittee the most eflFective 
agency, except the Congress itself, in getting 
the Revolution under way in North Carolina. 
Governor Martin recognized in him the chief 
source of opposition to the royal government; 
and the Provincial Congress demanded his 
services for the province at large. When the 
Provincial Council was created Harnett was 
unanimously elected president, a position that 
made him in all but name the first chief executive 
of the newborn State. The work of this Council, 
too, was largely his work, and its success is proof 
of the ability which he brought to his task. 

The policy of the Continental Congress aimed 
to promote economy and industry, to discourage 
extravagance and luxury, and to enforce the 
non-importation and non-exportation associa- 
tions. Upon the committees of safety fell the 
task of making this policy effective.' It was 
neither an easy nor an agreeable task, for some 
features of the policy were extremely irritating 
in their operation and at times produced rest- 
lessness among the people. It required as much 
tact as determination for the committees to 
execute their orders with vigor without at the 
same time losing the support of their constit- 

1 The prooeedinns of the Wllmlngton-New Hanover committees may 
be found In the Colonial Records, vol. IX, pp. 1088, 1095, 1098, 1101, 
1107, 1108, 1118, 1120, 1122, 1126, 1127, 1135, 1143, 1149. 1166, 1168. 1170, 
1185, 1222, 1265, 1285; vol. X, pp. 12, 15, 24, 50, 64. 65, 68. 72, 87, 89, 91, 93, 
112, 116, 121, 124, 141, 151, 157, 158, 220, 262, 263, 279, 282, 298, 304, 328, 
331, 334, 335. 336, 345, 348. 363, 388, 389, 393, 405, 410, 411, 418, 421, 425. 
431, 435. 477. 



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90 Cornelius Harnett 

uents. In this double task the committees of 
Wilmington and New Hanover met with a remark- 
able degree of success. Though they enforced 
strictly the resolve against "expensive diversions 
and entertainments," interfering with horse- 
races, billiards, dancing and other pleasures, 
the people submitted without complaint. "Noth- 
ing," declared the conmiittee, "will so effectively 
tend to convince the British Parliament that 
we are in earnest in opposition to their measures, 
as a voluntary relinquishment of our favorite 
amusements. * * * Many will cheerfully part 
with part of their property to secure the remain- 
der. He only is the determined patriot who 
willingly sacrifices his pleasures on the altar of 
freedom.'' They seized and sold large quan- 
tities of goods imported contrary to the asso- 
ciation. "The safety of the people is, or ought 
to be, the supreme law," wrote a merchant 
whose goods were seized; "the gentlemen of the 
conmiittee will judge whether this law, or any 
act of Parliament, should, at this particular 
time, operate in North Carolina." Several 
planters who thought upon one pretext or 
another to get around the resolve forbidding 
the importation of slaves, were promptly sum- 
moned before the committee to "give a particular 
accoimt" of their conduct, and as promptly 
required to re-ship their negroes by the first 
opportimity. The non-exportation resolve be- 



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Committees of Safety 91 

came operative September 10, 1775. A few 
merchants having conceived a scheme to circum- 
vent the resolve through a technicality, were at 
once summoned before the committee who, 
determined to enforce the spirit as well as the 
letter of the resolve, effectively put an end to 
their scheme. When Parliament, in an effort 
to break up the Continental Association, passed 
an act "to restrain the trade and commerce" 
of certain colonies, from which North Carolina 
and some others were excepted, the Wilmington- 
New Hanover committees, at a large meeting 
over which Cornelius Harnett presided, "resolved, 
unanimously, that the exception of this colony, 
and some others, out of the said act, is a mean 
and base artifice, to seduce them into a desertion 
of the common cause of America"; and accord- 
ingly determined "that we will not accept of the 
advantages insidiously thrown out by the said 
act, but will strictly adhere to such plans as have 
been, and shall be, entered into by the Honorable 
Continental Congress, so as to keep up a perfect 
unanimity with our sister colonies." In their 
work the committees met with just enough 
opposition to enable them to make a display of 
firmness and determination. For instance, when 
Harnett at the head of the committee submitted 
to the people of Wilmington a test pledging the 
signers to "observe strictly" the Continental 
Association, eleven prominent men refused to sign. 



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92 Cornelius Harnett 

They were promptly ostracized as "unworthy 
the rights of freemen and as inimical to the 
liberties of their comitry"; and held up before 
the public that they might be "treated with 
the contempt they deserve." There were no 
braver men than some of those thus cut oflF from 
their fellows, but they could not stand out 
against the open scorn of their neighbors; within 
less than a week eight of their number gave way 
and subscribed the test. The committee justified 
their course as being "a cement of allegiance" 
to the Crown and as "having a tendency to 
promote a constitutional attachment for the 
mother country." 

But in May, 1776, the last bond of such alle- 
giance was snapped, and the last sentiment of 
such attachment destroyed, by news that came 
from Massachusetts. American blood had been 
shed on Lexington green. Through the colonies 
expresses rode day and night, carrying the news 
of Lexington, of the rising of the minute-men, 
and of the retreat from Concord. ^ In no other 
way did the committees of safety give a better 
illustration of their usefulness than in the trans- 
mission of this news. From colony to colony, 
from town to town, from committee to conmiittee, 
they hurried it along. New York received the 
dispatches at midday. New Brimswick at mid- 
night. They aroused Princeton at 3 o'clock in 
the morning. Trenton read them at daybreak, 

1 Col. Rec, IX. 1229—1239. 



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Committees op Safety 93 

Philadelphia at noon. They reached Baltimore 
at bed-time, Alexandria at the breakfast hour. 
Three days and nights the express rode on, 
down the Potomac, across the Rappahannock, 
the York and the James, through scenes since 
made famous, and on to Edenton. Edenton 
received the dispatches at 9 a. m.. May 4, and 
hurried them on to Bath with the injunction 
"to disperse the material passages through all 
your parts." Bath hastened them on to New 
Bern with a message to send them forward 
"with the utmost dispatch." "Send them on 
as soon as possible to th6 Wilmington committee," 
directed New Bern to Onslow. "Disperse them 
to your adjoining counties," echoed Onslow 
to Wilmington. At 3 o'clock p. m.. May 8, 
the messenger delivered his dispatches to Corne- 
lius Harnett. Delaying just long enough to 
make copies, Harnett urged him on to Brunswick. 
"If you should be at a loss for a horse or a man," 
he wrote to the Brunswick committee, "the 
bearer will proceed as far as the Boundary House. 
You will please direct Mr. Marion or any other 
gentleman to forward the packet inmiediately 
southward with the greatest possible dispatch." 
He had signed his name when, overcome with 
a rush of sudden emotion, he seized his pen and 
dashed oflf impulsively: "P. S. For God's sake 
send the man on without the least delay and 
write to Mr. Marion to forward it by night and 



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94 Cornelius Harnett 

day." Thus the news was sped to the south- 
ward, inspu^mg the forward, stirring the backward, 
and arousing the continent. The committees 
made the most of their opportunity. Governor 
Martin complained that the rebel leaders received 
the news more than a month before he did, and 
that he received it "too late to operate against 
the infamous and false reports of that transaction 
which were circulated to this distance from Boston 
in the space of 12 or 13 days.'' The first impres- 
sion took "deep root in the minds of the vulgar 
here universally and wrought a great change in 
the face of things, confirming the seditious in 
their evil purposes, and bringing over vast num- 
bers of the fickle, wavering and unsteady multi- 
tude to their party." * 

The battle of Lexington was the beginning 
of war. For this result the patriots of the Cape 
Fear were not wholly unprepared. Recognizing 
that the Cape Fear would be the scene of the 
first armed conflict in North Carolina, the 
committees, under the direction of Cornelius 
Harnett, had made every effort to be ready for 
"the worst contingencies." They required the 
merchants to sell their gunpowder to the com- 
mittees for the public use, they bought it from 
other committees, imported it from other colonies, 
and employed agents to manufacture it. They 
hired men to mould bullets. They seized the 
public arms, and they compelled every person 

1 Col. Rec., X, 44. 



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Committees of Safety 95 

who owned more than one gun to surrender all 
but one for the public service. They smuggled 
arms and ammunition from other colonies and 
the West Indies in such quantities that Governor 
Martin ''lamented that effectual steps have not 
been taken to intercept the supplies of warlike 
stores that * * * are frequently brought into 
this colony"; and asked for three or four cruisers 
to guard the coast, for the sloop stationed at 
Fort Johnston "is not sufficient to attend to the 
smugglers in this [Cape Fear] river alone." ^ The 
Wilmington committee required ''every white 
man capable of bearing arms" to enlist in one 
of the companies that had been organized; and 
early in July, 1775, gave as one reason for a 
provincial congress which Harnett, Ashe and 
Howe urged Johnston to call, "that a number 
of men should be raised and kept in pay for the 
defense of the country." ^ Nor were the commit- 
tees unmindful of the necessity of preparing the 
minds of the people for war. In this respect, 
too, success crowned their efforts. Even histo- 
rians who think North Carolina did not give 
"general and heroic support to the cause of inde- 
pendence," declare that at the outbreak of the 
Revolution the people were "aroused to an 
extraordinary degree of enthusiasm."' This 
enthusiasm Governor Martin charged partic- 

1 Col. Rec., X, 233. 
« Col. Rec., X, 92. 
« Dodd : South Atlantic Quarterly, 1, 156. 



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96 Cornelius Harnett 

ularly to the committees over which Cornelius 
Harnett presided. To Lord Dartmouth he 
wrote that the people "freely talk of hostility 
toward Britain in the language of aliens and 
avowed enemies," and he attributed this spirit 
to "the influence of the conmiittees" which, he 
said, "hath been so extended over the inhab- 
itants of the lower part [Cape Fear section] of 
this country, * * * and they are at this day 
to the distance of an hundred miles from the 
sea coast, so generally possessed with the spirit 
of revolt" that "the authority, the edicts and 
ordinances of congresses, conventions and com- 
mittees are established supreme and omnipotent 
by general acquiescence or forced submission, 
and lawful government is completely annihi- 
lated." ^ The records of the committees fully 
bear out these statements. 

The governor wrote these dispatches from Fort 
Johnston at the mouth of the Cape Fear river 
where, frightened from the Palace at New Bern by 
the New Bern committee, he had taken refuge. 
Reaching there June 2, he began to lay his schemes 
for counteracting the influence of the committees. 
His activity took the form of a resounding proc- 
lamation, in which he denounced the committees 
and warned the people against them; of an 
application to General Gage for a royal standard 
around which the loyal and faithful might rally; 
and of an elaborate plan for the organization of 

1 Col. Rec., X. 49, 232. 244. 



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COBOilTTBBS OF SAFETY 97 

the Highlanders and Regulators of the interior 
for military service. His plans were approved 
by the king who promised such assistance as 
might be necessary. They gave great alarm to 
the Whigs. ''Our situation here is truly alarm- 
ing," wrote the Wilmington committee; "the 
governor [is] collecting men, provisions, warlike 
stores of every kind, spiriting up the back country, 
and perhaps the slaves; finally strengthening 
the fort with new works in such a manner as may 
make the capture of it extremely difficult."^ 
"Nothing," declared Harnett, "shall be wanting on 
our part to disconcert such diabolical schemes."* 
The committees kept such close watch over his 
movements that Martin declared no messenger 
or letter could escape them. They intercepted 
his dispatches, frustrated his plans, and in general 
made life so miserable for him that he bemoaned 
his situation as "most despicable and mortifying 
to any man of greater feelings than a stoic." 
"I daily see indignantly the sacred majesty of 
my royal master insulted, the rights of his crown 
denied and violated, his government set at 
naught and trampled upon, his servants of 
highest dignity reviled, traduced, abused, the 
rights of his subjects destroyed by the most 
arbitrary usurpations, and the whole constitution 



1 Col. Rec., X. W. 

« MS. letter In the library at "HaycB" ; copy In the ooUectioni of 
the North Carolina Historical Commission. 



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98 Cornelius Harnett 

unhinged and prostrate, and I live, alas! inglo- 
riously only to deplore it." * 

On June 20, the committees of the Wilmington 
District, in session at Wilmington, declared that 
the governor had "by the whole tenor of his 
conduct, since the unhappy disputes between 
Great Britain and the colonies, discovered him- 
self to be an enemy to the happiness of this 
colony in particular, and to the freedom, rights 
and privileges of America in general." ^ Deter- 
mined, therefore, to treat him as an enemy, the 
Wilmington committee passed an order forbidding 
any communications with him. Expulsion from 
the province was the logical result of this order, 
and the leaders were soon ready to take this step 
also. In a letter to Samuel Johnston, July 13, 
the Wilmington committee said: "We have a 
number of enterprising young fellows that would 
attempt to take the fort [Fort Johnston], but are 
much afraid of having their conduct disavowed 
by the convention." * But what these "enter- 
prising yoimg fellows" were afraid to attempt, 
Cornelius Harnett, John Ashe and Robert Howe 
made up their minds to do. Captain John 
Collet, the commander of the fort, felt all the 
professional soldier's contempt for the miUtia 
and all the Britisher's contempt for the provin- 
cials, and took no pains to conceal his feelings.* 

1 Col. Rec, X. 47. 
« Col. Rec, X, 27. 
» Col. Rec, X, 91. 
4 Col. Rec, X, 112—115, 235. 



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Committees op Safety 99 

A long series of studied insults had exasperated 
the people of the Cape Fear against him, but they 
had borne them all patiently. But now news 
came that at Governor Martin's command, he 
was preparing the fort "for the reception of a 
promised reinforcement," the arrival of which 
would be the signal for the erection of the king's 
standard. The conmiittee regarded this as a 
declaration of war, and "having taken these 
things into consideration, judged it might be of 
the most pernicious consequences to the people 
at large, if the said John Collet should be suffered 
to remain in the fort, as he might thereby have 
an opportunity of carrying his iniquitous schemes 
into execution." They accordingly called for 
volimteers to take the fort, and in response "a 
great many volunteers were immediately col- 
lected." ' 

The committee's preparations alarmed Gov- 
ernor Martin. Nobody realized better than he 
that the fort could not be held against a deter- 
mined attack. Yet its defense was a matter of 
honor and its surrender would have a bad effect 
in the province. Besides it held artillery "con- 
siderable in value," with a quantity of movable 
stores and ammunition. "Its artillery which 
is heavy," wrote Martin, "might in the hands 
of the mob be turned against the king's ship, 
and so annoy her as to oblige her to quit her 
present station which is most convenient in all 

1 Col. Reo., X, 03, 113—114. 



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100 COBNELIUS HaBNETT 

respects." Then, too, an unsuccessful defense 
meant the capture of the governor himself. In 
this perplexing situation, Martin decided to 
remove the stores to a transport, to withdraw 
the garrison, dismantle the fortifications, and 
seek refuge on board the Cruizer.^ Almost at 
the very hour of his flight, Lord Dartmouth was 
writing to him: "I hope his Majesty's govern- 
ment in North Carolina may be preserved, and 
his governor and other oflSicers not reduced to the 
disgraceful necessity of seeking protection on 
board the king's ships." ^ 

Smarting keenly imder his disgrace, Martin 
hastened to put on record the punishment he 
desired to inflict on those most responsible for 
it. From the cabin of the "Cruizer, Sloop of 
War, in Cape Fear River," July 16, he wrote 
to Lord Dartmouth: 

"Hearing of a proclamation of the king, pro- 
scribing John Hancock and Samuel Adams of the 
Massachusetts Bay, and seeing clearly that 
further proscriptions will be necessary before 
government can be settled again upon sure 
foimdations in America, I hold it my indispen- 
sable duty to mention to your Lordship Corne- 
lius Harnett, John Ashe, Robert Howes' and 
Abner Nash, as persons who have marked them- 

1 Col. Rec, X. 96—98. 

« Col. Rec„ X, 90. 

^ "Robert Howes," wrote Martin, "Is commonly called Howe, he 
having Impudently assumed that name for some years past in affecta- 
tion of the noble family that bears it, whose least eminent virtues have 
ever been far beyond his imitation." Col. Rec, X, 98. 



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Committees of Safety 101 

selves out as proper objects for such distinction 
in this colony by their unremitted labours to 
promote sedition and rebellion here from the 
beginnings of the discontents in America to this 
time, that they stand foremost among the 
patrons of revolt and anarchy." ^ 

In the meantime 500 minute-men had rendez- 
voused at Brunswick and, learning that the 
governor had fled to the Cruizer, marched on the 
fort and applied the torch. Early in the morning 
of July 19, the governor was aroused from his 
quarters by the annoimcement that Fort John- 
ston was on fire. Hurrying to the deck he 
beheld the rapid spread of the flames as they 
reduced the fort to ashes. The ''rabble," he 
wrote, burned several houses erected by Captain 
Collet, and thus, in the words of the Wilmington 
committee, "eflfectually dislodged that atrocious 
freebooter." ^ ''Mr. John Ashe and Mr. Corne- 
lius Harnett," wrote the enraged governor, 
"were ringleaders of this savage and audacious 
mob."' 



1 Col. Rec., X, 98. 
« Col. Rec., X, 114. 
« Col. Rec., X, 108—109. 



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VII 
THE PROVINCIAL COUNCIL 

Upon the adjournment of the second Provin- 
cial Congress, April 7, 1775, authority was given 
to John Harvey, or in the event of his death to 
Samuel Johnston, to call another congress when- 
ever he thought it necessary. It became neces- 
sary sooner than was expected. The flight of 
the governor left the province without a govern- 
ment or a constitutional method of calling an 
assembly. The battle of Lexington, soon to be 
followed by the destruction of Fort Johnston, 
produced a state of war. Both sides, recognizing 
this fact, were straining every nerve to get 
ready for the conflict. The situation, therefore, 
called for a larger authority than had been granted 
to the committees. A new government had 
to be formed, a currency devised, an army organ- 
ized, mimitions of war collected, and a system 
of defense planned; and all these preparations 
had to be made with a view to continental as 
well as provincial affairs. The leaders of the 
Whig party on the Cape Fear were required 
daily to exercise authority and accept responsi- 
bilities that exceeded the powers granted them; 
and they realized earlier than their friends 
elsewhere the necessity for organizing a govern- 
ment that could act independently of the royal 



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The Provincial Council 103 

authority. Only a general congress could pro- 
vide this government. Accordingly on May 31, 
1775, Howe, Harnett and Ashe joined in a letter 
to Samuel Johnston, — Harvey having died a 
few days before — suggesting that he call a con- 
gress "as soon as possible." ^ Johnston, however, 
thought the suggestion premature, and was 
reluctant to take a step that would widen still 
further the breach with the royal government. 
But at his quiet home on the Albemarle, Johnston 
failed to appreciate the situation on the Cape 
Fear, where a state of war practically existed, 
and he hesitated. "I expect my conduct in not 
immediately calling a provincial congress," he 
wrote, "will be much censured by many, but 
being conscious of having discharged my duty 
according to my best judgment I shall be the 
better able to bear it." ^ The Cape Fear leaders 
became impatient. On Jime 29, Howe, Harnett 
and Ashe, wrote again to Johnston taking him 
to task for his delay. "The circumstances of 
the times," and "the expectations of the people," 
they thought, ought to determine his conduct. * 
The people, wrote the Wilmington committee, 
were "continually clamouring for a provincial 
convention. They hope everything from its 
immediate session, fear everything from its 

1 Col. Rec, IX, 1285. 

« MS. letter In the library at ** Hayes," copy In collections of the 
North Carolina Historical Commission, 
a State Rec. XI, 265. 



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104 Cornelius Harnett 

delay." * Thus pressed, Johnston yielded and 
issued his call for a congress to meet at Hillsboro, 
August 20. 

Nothing shows the progress that had been 
made toward revolution during the year more 
clearly than the full attendance at this Congress.' 
Just a year, lacking but five days, had passed 
since the first Congress met at New Bern. Sev- 
enty-one delegates were present, while five 
counties and three towns were imrepresented. 
At the second Congress, April 3, 1776, there 
were sixty-eight delegates present, while nine 
counties and two towns were imrepresented. But 
at the Hillsboro Congress, of August, 1776, 
every county and every borough town was repre- 
sented, and one himdred and eighty-four dele- 
gates were present. Cornelius Harnett, together 
with Archibald Maclaine, a lawyer of ability, 
an aggressive debater and a bold patriot, repre- 
sented Wilmington. The Congress unanimously 
elected Samuel Johnston "president,'' — a sig- 
nificant change in the title of the presiding 
oflSicer. The delegates brought to their deliber- 
ations a spirit almost national. No such thing 
as a truly national spirit existed in America at 
that time, but the Hillsboro Congress approached 
it as nearly as any body that had yet assembled 
in the colonies. Throughout their proceedings, 
in their appeals to the people, in the organization 

1 Col. Rec., X, 91. 

s The proceedings of thia Congress are printed in the Colonial Rec- 
ords. X, 164—220. 



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The Provincial Council 106 

of an army, and in the formation of a provisional 
government, the one clear note sounding above 
all others was "the common cause of America." 
The two most important matters before the 
Congress were the organization of an army and 
the formation of a provisional government. 
"Our principal debates," wrote Johnston, "will 
be about raising troops." As a preliminary 
to this step, the Congress first issued what may 
not inaptly be called a declaration of war. They 
declared that whereas "hostilities being actually 
commenced in the Massachusetts Bay by the 
British troops imder the command of General 
Gage; * * * And whereas His Excellency 
Governor Martin hath taken a very active and 
instrumental share in opposition to the means 
which have been adopted by this and the other 
United Colonies for the common safety, * * * 
therefore [resolved that] this colony be immedi- 
ately put into a state of defense." Two regiments 
of 500 men each were ordered "as part of and on 
the same establishment with the continental 
army." Colonel James Moore was assigned to 
the command of the first, Colonel Robert Howe 
to the second. Both won military fame in the 
war that followed. Six regiments of 500 minute- 
men each, were ordered to be raised in the six 
military districts into which the province was 
divided. When called into active service these 
troops were to be under the same discipline as the 



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106 Cornelius Harnett 

continental troops. In addition to these 4,000 
troops, provision was made for a more eflfective 
organization of the militia, and for the organi- 
zation of independent companies. An issue of 
J125,000 of currency was authorized for their 
equipment. 

To agree upon a plan of civil government was 
a more diflScult task than the organization of 
the army. Most men will frankly confess their 
ignorance of military matters, and willingly 
submit to the opinions of experts, but no American 
would consider himself loyal to the teachings 
of the fathers were he to admit himself incapable 
of manufacturing ofifhand a plan of civil govern- 
ment. Congress, therefore, found no lack of 
plans and ideas. On August 24 a strong com- 
mittee, of which Harnett's friend and colleague, 
Archibald Maclaine, was made chairman, was 
appointed to prepare a plan of government 
made necessary by the "absence" of Governor 
Martin. The committee reported September 
10. The plan proposed and adopted by the 
Congress continued the Congress as the supreme 
branch of the government with a few changes 
that will be noticed. The executive and judicial 
authority was vested in a Provincial Council, 
six district committees of safety, and the local 
committees of safety. 

Congress was to be the supreme power in the 
province. Henceforth it was to meet annually 



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The Provincial Council 107 

at such time and place as should be designated 
by the Provincial Council. Delegates were 
to be elected annually in October. Each county 
was to be entitled to five delegates, and each 
borough town to one. The privilege of suffrage 
was limited to freeholders. The members of 
Congress were to qualify by taking an oath, in 
the presence of three members of the Provincial 
Council, acknowledging allegiance to the Crown, 
denying the right of Parliament to levy internal 
taxes on the colonies, and agreeing to abide by 
the acts and resolutions of the provincial and 
continental congresses. Each county and each 
town was to have one vote in Congress. No 
constitutional limitation was placed on the 
authority of Congress, and as the supreme power 
in the province it could review the acts of the 
executive branches of the government. 

The executive powers of the government were 
vested in the committees. The committees of 
the coimties and towns were continued practically 
as they were. Some Umitation was placed on 
their power by making their acts reviewable by 
the district committees with the right of appeal 
to the Provincial Council. They were empowered 
to make such rules and regulations as they saw 
fit for the enforcement of their authority, but 
they could not inflict corporal pimishment 
except by imprisonment. Within their own 
jurisdictions, they were to execute the orders 



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108 Cornelius Harnett 

of the district committees and the Provincial 
Coimcil. They were to enforce the Continental 
Association and the ordinances of the provincial 
and continental congresses. Each committee 
was required to organize a sub-committee of 
secrecy, intelligence and observation to corre- 
spond with other committees and with the Council. 
They were vested with the power to arrest and 
examine suspected persons and if deemed neces- 
sary to hold them for trial by a higher tribunal. 
Members of the committees were to be elected 
annually by the freeholders. 

Above these local committees was placed a 
system of district committees, one in each of the 
military districts, composed of a president and 
twelve members. The members were to be 
elected by the delegates in Congress from the 
counties which composed the several districts. 
They were to sit at least once in every three 
months. Power was given to them, subject to 
the authority of the Provincial Council, to 
direct the movements of the militia and other 
troops within their districts. They were to sit 
as courts for the trial of civil causes, for inves- 
tigations into charges of disaffection to the 
American cause, and as appellate courts over the 
town and coimty committees. They shared 
with the Council authority to compel debtors 
suspected of intention to leave the province to 
give security to their creditors. Finally, they 



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The Provincial Council 109 

were to superintend the collection of the public 
revenue. 

The Provincial Council was the chief executive 
authority of the new government. It was to 
be composed of thirteen members, one elected 
by the Congress for the province at large, and 
two from each of the military districts. Vacan- 
cies occurring during the recess of Congress were 
to be filled by the committee of safety for the 
district in which the vacancy fell. Military 
oflScers, except oflSiCers of the militia, were inel- 
igible for membership. The members were to 
qualify by subscribing the oath prescribed for 
members of Congress. The Council was to 
meet once every three months, and a majority 
of the members was to constitute a quorum. 
Authority was given to them to direct the military 
operations of the province, to call out the militia 
when needed, and to execute the acts of the 
Assembly that were still in force with respect to 
the militia. They could issue commissions, 
suspend oflScers, order courts^martial, reject 
oflSicers of the militia chosen by the people, and 
fill vacancies. But their real power lay in a sort 
of "general welfare" clause which empowered 
them "to do and transact all such matters and 
things as they may judge expedient to strengthen, 
secure and defend the colony." To carry out 
their powers, they were authorized to draw on 
the public treasury for such sums of money as 



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110 Cornelius Harnett 

they needed, for which they were accountable 
to Congress. In all matters they were given 
an appellate jurisdiction over the district com- 
mittees, and in turn were subject to the authority 
of Congress. Their authority continued only 
during the recess of Congress, and Congress at 
each session was to review and pass upon their 
proceedings. 

Such was the government that was to organize, 
equip and direct the military forces raised by 
Congress and to inaugurate the great war about 
to burst over the colony. As Saunders says, 
the die was now cast and North Carolina was at 
last a self-governing commonwealth. The people 
had so declared through representatives whom 
they had chosen after a campaign of forty days. 
Nobody was taken by surprise for all knew that 
the Congress elected in that campaign would 
formulate a provisional government. This 
action was taken fully eight months before the 
Continental Congress advised the colonies to 
adopt new constitutions. "The more the action 
of this great Hillsborough Congress is studied, 
and the events immediately preceding," writes 
Saunders, "the more wonderful seems the delib- 
erate, well-considered, resolute boldness of our 
ancestors.'' ^ 

The efficiency of the new government depended, 
of course, upon the men chosen to administer 
it. The members of the Provincial Council 



^ Col. Rec, Prefatory Notes, X, viU— ix. 



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The Provincial Council 111 

were elected Sunday, September 10th. Samuel 
Johnston was chosen by the Congress for the 
province at large. The other members were: 
Cornelius Harnett and Samuel Ashe, for the 
Wilmington District; Thomas Jones and Whit- 
mill Hill, for the Edenton District; Abner Nash 
and James Coor, for the New Bern District; 
Thomas Person and John Kinchen, for the 
Hillsboro District; Willie Jones and Thomas 
Eaton, for the Halifax District; Samuel Spencer 
and Waightstill Avery, for the Salisbury District. 
On October 18th, the Council held its first 
session at Johnston Court House. "Among its 
members," says Bancroft,^ "were Samuel John- 
ston; Samuel Ashe, a man whose integrity even 
his enemies never questioned, whose name a 
mountain county and the fairest town in the 
western part of the commonwealth keep in 
memory; Abner Nash, an eminent lawyer, de- 
scribed by Martin as 'the oracle of the committee 
of New Bern, and a principal supporter of 
sedition'; but on neither [sic] of these three did 
the choice of president fall: that office of peril 
and power was bestowed unanimously on Corne- 
lius Harnett, of New Hanover, whose earnestness 
of purpose, and disinterested, imquenchable 
zeal had made him honored as the Samuel Adams 
of North Carolina. Thus prepared, the people 
of that colony looked toward the future with 
dignity and fearlessness." 

1 HlBtory of the United States, Ed, 1860, IV, 08. 



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112 Cornelius Habnett 

Cornelius Hamett thus became the first chief 
executive of North Carolina independent of the 
Crown. Governor in all but name, he exercised 
greater authority than the people have since 
conferred on their chief executive, and occupied 
a position of honor and power, but likewise of 
responsibility and peril. ''The oflSice of presi- 
dent of the Council,'' as Jones observes, ^ '*was 
the most arduous and dangerous post to which 
a citizen could be called, and, representing the 
executive oflScer of goveriynent, was exposed 
to all the abuse and insolence of the proclama- 
tions of the British authorities. The great 
energy of his [Harnett's] character, however, 
supported him through the diflSiCulties of his 
station, and gave him the confidence and love of 
his coimtrymen." How he met the duties of his 
place may be read not only in the records of the 
Council, but also in the dispatches of the baffled 
and humiliated royal governor. 

The Coimcil were forced to work imder the 
most unfavorable conditions. To begin with 
there was not a place in the province, except 
possibly the Palace at New Bern, suitable for 
their sessions. From necessity, as well as from 
policy, they became a migratory body. The 
members were subjected to almost every personal 
inconvenience and discomfort.^ But these were 
among the least of their difficulties. Almost 

1 Defense of North Carolina, 206—207. 

> MS. letter of Samuel Johnston, in the hbrary of "Hayes"; copy in 
he collections of the North Carolina Historical Commission. 



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The Provincial Council 113 

without any of the means with which govern- 
ments usually administer public affairs, they 
were compelled to struggle against political and 
economic conditions that might well have daunted 
the most determined. They had to rely for 
success on a public sentiment which they them- 
selves, to a large extent, had to create, and at 
the same time to enforce measures that were 
at once burdensome and dangerous. They had 
no powerful press to uphold their hands. The 
people were scattered over an immense area, 
with means of commimication crudely primitive. 
There were no public highways except, a few 
rough and dangerous forest paths frequently 
impassable. Their principal river was held at the 
mouth by hostile ships of war, and at the head of 
navigation by an enemy bold, hardy and enthu- 
siastic in the king's cause. The East was domi- 
nated by an oligarchy of wealthy planters and 
merchants, living in an almost feudal state, 
supported by slave labor; the West was a pure 
democracy, composed of small farmers, living 
on isolated farms, tilled by their own hands. 
Both East and West, aristocracy and democracy, 
were equally determined in their opposition to 
the British government, but between the two, 
right through the heart of the province, were 
projected the Scotch Highlanders and the old 
Regulators, — ^the one eager to prove their 
loyalty to the throne against which they were 
8 



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114 Cornelius Harnett 

but recently in rebellion, the other equally as 
eager to wreak vengeance upon the men who had 
but lately crushed and humiliated them at Ala- 
mance. The province was a rural community 
without a single center of population. There 
were no mills or factories. Their only port 
of any consequence was in the hands of the 
enemy. Thus the Councirs task was to organize 
an army among a people divided in sentiment 
and unused to war; to equip it without factories 
for the manufacture of clothes, arms or ammu- 
nition; to train it without oflSicers of experience; 
to maintain it without money; and to direct 
its movements in the face of an enemy superior 
in numbers, in equipment, and in military experi- 
ence. 

The Council was created as a war nleasure, 
and its principal work related to military affairs.^ 
Ihe province was threatened in front and in the 
rear. In front Governor Martin was organ- 
izing the Highlanders and Regulators for a 
descent on the lower Cape Fear, and Governor 
Dunmore, of Virginia, was encouraging an 
insurrection of slaves on the Albemarle. In the 
rear bands of Tories were overrimning western 
South Carolina and threatening the frontier of 
North Carolina, while the Indians, instigated 
by British agents, were showing signs of rest- 
lessness. Foreseeing that the province would 

1 The proceedings of the Proviiicial Council are printed in the Colo- 
nial Records, X, 283— 2W, 34&-362, 469-477. 



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The Provincial Council 115 

"soon be invaded by British troops," the Council 
issued orders to Colonels Moore and Howe, of 
the continental regiments, to resist "to the 
utmost of their power" any attempt to invade 
the province; directed the committees of Wil- 
mington and Brunswick to stop all commimi- 
cations, "on any pretense whatever," between 
the people and the governor, and "to cut off all 
supplies of provisions to any of the ships of war 
lying in Cape Fear River"; and commanded 
Colonels Griffith Rutherford and Thomas Polk, of 
the Salisbury District, to raise two regiments for 
defense of the frontier. Had they been less than 
tragical, these high-sounding orders, in compari- 
son with the Council's means for enforcing them, 
would have been ludicrous. The Coimcil found 
their minute-men and continental troops prac- 
tically without clothes, arms, ammunition, or 
any of the necessary equipment of war, the people 
"destitute of sufficient arms for defense of their 
lives and property," and the outlook for supply- 
ing them unpromising enough. They drew 
upon every conceivable source. They bought 
and borrowed, made and mended, begged and 
confiscated, and though their efforts fell far 
short of what the emergency required, yet they 
were sufficient to enable the western militia 
to march to the aid of South Carolina on the 
famous "Snow Campaign;" to enable Colonel 
Howe to drive Lord Dunmore out of Norfolk; 



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116 Cornelius Harnett 

and to enable Colonel Moore to win a brilliant 
campaign against the Highlanders at Moore's 
Creek Bridge. South Carolina and Virginia 
were profuse in their thanks to President Harnett 
for the important assistance in their hour of 
need/ while Governor Martin expressed great 
"mortification," and declared it was a matter 
"greatly to be lamented." 

The defeat of the Highlanders at Moore's 
Creek Bridge, February 27th, 1776, was an event 
of much greater significance than is generally 
accorded to it in the histories of the Revolu- 
tion; and Frothingham is guilty of no exaggera- 
tion when he calls it "the Lexington and Con- 
cord" of the South. So far from being an iso- 
lated event, it was part of an extensive cam- 
paign planned by the king and ministry for the 
subjugation of the southern colonies, which but 
for the victory at Moore's Creek Bridge would 
probably have succeeded. The plan was con- 
ceived by Governor Martin and heartily ap- 
proved by the king. In brief, it was this. Martin 
was to organize the Highlanders and Regulators 
and march them to Wilmington. There they 
were to be joined by Lord Comwallis with seven 
regiments of British regulars, escorted by a power- 
ful fleet imder Sir Peter Parker. Sir Henry 
Clinton with a force from the Boston army was 
to sail for the Cape Fear and take command. 
It was expected that North Carolina would 

1 State Records, XI, 267, 270, 274—76. 



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The Provincial Council 117 

fall an easy victim to such a force, and then 
could be used as a basis of operations against 
Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia. The 
middle of February was the time set for the con- 
junction of the forces in the Cape Fear. Accord- 
ingly on February 18th, 1,600 Highlanders imder 
the command of Donald McDonald, a veteran 
of Culloden and Bunker Hill, marched out of 
Cross Creek ^ and took the road for Wilmington. 
In the meantime the Whigs were concentrating 
their forces to oppose the march. Colonel 
James Moore was in chief command, and to him, 
more than to any other, the victory was due. 
Though not present in person at the battle, he 
directed the campaign which, on the morning of 
February 27th, brought Colonel Richard Cas- 
well, with 1,100 militia, face to face with McDon- 
ald's 1,600 Highlanders at Moore's Creek Bridge, 
eighteen miles above Wilmington. The battle 
began about an hour before daybreak and lasted 
but a few minutes. The victory could not 
have been more decisive. The Whigs lost one 
man killed and one wounded. The total loss 
of the Highlanders was estimated at seventy. 
Their army was completely scattered. The 
victors captured 350 guns, 150 swords and dirks, 
1,600 excellent rifles, a box containing £16,000 
sterUng, thirteen wagons, 860 soldiers and many 
officers including the commanding general. Two 
days after the victory Colonel Caswell reported 

1 Now Fayette\'ille. 



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118 Cornelius Harnett 

it to President Hamett, and on March 2d, 
Colonel Moore sent to him a more detailed 
account of the campaign. * 

The victory at Moore's Creek Bridge was the 
crowning achievement of the Provincial Council. 
But for the sleepless vigilance and resourceful 
energy of President Hamett and his colleagues 
in organizing, arming and equipping the troops, 
McDonald's march down the Cape Fear would 
have been but a holiday excursion. As it was, 
Governor Martin again measured strength with 
the people, and again was beaten. Clinton and 
Comwallis came with their powerful armaments, 
but finding no loyalist force to welcome them at 
Cape Fear, they sailed away to beat in vain at 
the doors of Charleston. The victory at Moore's 
Creek Bridge saved North Carolina from con- 
quest, and in all probability postponed the 
conquest of Georgia and South Carolina for three 
more years. Of this victory Bancroft writes:' 
'^In less than a fortnight, more than nine thousand 
f oiu: hundred men of North Carolina rose against 
the enemy; and the coming of Clinton inspired 
no terror. * * * Almost every man was 
ready to turn out at an hour's warning. * * * 
Virginia offered assistance, and South Carolina 
would gladly have contributed relief; but North 
Carolina had men enough of her own to crush 
insurrection and guard against invasion; and 

1 Col. Hec., X, 482. 485 ; State Reo., XI, 383. 

8 History of the United States, ed. 1800, VIII. 289-90. 



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The Provincial Council 119 

as they marched m triumph through their piney 
forests, they were persuaded that in their own 
woods they could win an easy victory over 
British regulars. The terrors of a fate like that 
of Norfolk could not dismay the patriots of Wil- 
mington; the people spoke more and more of 
independence; and the Provincial Congress, at 
its impending session, was expected to give an 
authoritative form to the prevailing desire." 



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VIII 
INDEPENDENCE 

"Moore's Creek was the Rubicon over which 
North Carolina passed to independence and 
constitutional self-government." Before that 
event the Whig leaders had rather dreaded than 
sought independence. They met with indignant 
denial the assertions of their enemies that they 
had aimed at it from the beginning of their 
dispute with the mother country. Perhaps they 
did not foresee as clearly as the Tories did the 
logical result of their contentions. At any rate, 
they approached independence slowly, through 
a long process of development, and finally adopted 
it, as emancipation was afterwards adopted, as 
a war measiure. Officially North Carolina led 
the way, and Cornelius Harnett wrote the first 
resolution adopted by any of the colonies authoriz- 
ing their delegates in the Continental Congress to 
vote for independence. It seems proper, there- 
fore, to trace briefly the rise and development 
of the sentiment for independence in North Caro- 
lina, and to point out what influence the action 
of the North Carolina Congress had in other 
colonies. 

It can not be said that the sentiment for inde- 
pendence "originated" in any particular place. 
It was a growth and was present, perhaps imcon- 



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Independence 121 

sciously, in the minds of political philosophers 
for some time before England's conduct crystal- 
lized it into conscious thought. Academic dis- 
cussions of the possibility of an independent 
American nation were not uncommon, either 
in Europe or America, for many years before the 
Revolution; but it is safe to say that the idea 
took no definite shape even in the minds of the 
most advanced thinkers until after the struggle 
over the Stamp Act. The principles upon 
which the Americans opposed the Stamp Act 
had been regarded in the colonies as so firmly 
fixed, both by the British Constitution and by 
the colonial charters, that they were astonished 
to find them seriously questioned. Adherence 
to their charters and resistance to their perversion 
were cardinal principles with North Carolinians 
throughout their colonial history, and their 
records for a hundred years before the passage 
of the Stamp Act are full of assertions of the 
principles upon which the American Revolution 
was fought. 

The ministry therefore no sooner asserted the 
constitutional authority of Parliament to levy 
taxes on the colonists, than the people of North 
Carolina denied it. Their contest, however, 
before the outbreak of hostilities was for consti- 
tutional government within the British Empire, 
though a few far-sighted leaders soon began to 
think of independence as possibly the ultimate 



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122 Cornelius Harnett 

solution of their political troubles with the mother 
country. Among the leaders of North Carolina 
who foresaw it, first place must be assigned to 
William Hooper. On April 26, 1774, in a letter 
to James Iredell, Hooper made this remarkable 
forecast of the political tendencies of the time: 

"With you I anticipate the important share 
which the colonies must soon have in regulating 
the political balance. They are striding fast to 
independence, and ere long will build an empire 
upon the ruins of Great Britain, will adopt its 
constitution purged of its impurities, and from 
an experience of its defects will guard against 
those evils which have wasted its vigor and 
brought it to an untimely end." ^ 

In the same prophetic vein Samuel Johnston 
a few months later, September 23, referring more 
specifically than Hooper to the quarrel with 
the mother country, wrote to a friend in London: 

"The ministry from the time of passing the 
Declaratory Act, on the repeal of the Stamp Act, 
seem to have used every opportunity of teasing 
and fretting the people here as if on purpose 
to draw them into rebellion or some violent 
opposition to government; at a time when the 
inhabitants of Boston were, every man, quietly 
employed about their own private afifairs, the 
wise members of your House of Commons on 
the authority of ministerial scribbles, declare 
they are in a state of open rebellion. On the 

1 Col. Rec. IX, 983--«6. 



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Independence 123 

strength of this they pass a set of laws which from 
their severity and injustice can not be carried 
into execution but by a military force, which 
they have very wisely provided, being conscious 
that no people who had once tasted the sweets 
of freedom would ever submit to them except 
in the last extremity. They have now brought 
things to a crisis and God only knows where it 
will end. It is useless in disputes between differ- 
ent countries to talk about the right which one 
has to give laws to the other, as that generally 
attends the power, though where that power 
is wantonly or cruelly exercised there are in- 
stances where the weaker state has resisted 
with success; for when once the sword is drawn, 
all nice distinctions fall to the ground; the 
difference between internal and external tax- 
ation will be little attended to, and it will 
hereafter be considered of no consequence 
whether the act be to regulate trade or raise 
a fund to support a majority in the House of 
Commons. By this desperate push the ministry 
will either confirm their power of ma)dng laws 
to bind the colonies in all cases whatsoever, or 
give up the right of making laws to bind them 
in any case." * 

Johnston's letter is more to the point than 
Hooper's; for while Hooper wrote in a speculative 
academic vein, basing his conclusions upon a 
fancied analogy between the Roman Empire 

1 Col. Rec., IX, 1071-72. 



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124 Cornelius Harnett 

in its decline and the British Empire, Johnston 
was discussing the specific issues in dispute 
between the two countries, and, as events subse- 
quently showed, correctly pointed out their 
logical result. He regarded the dispute as one 
"between different countries," and looked to 
separation and revolution for the salvation of 
the weaker. 

These utterances, however, expressed political 
judgment rather than sentiment, for neither 
Hooper nor Johnston at that time desired inde- 
pendence. Nor did their judgment express the 
general sentiment of the colony. This senti- 
ment found more acciurate expression in the 
proceedings of the local meetings which were 
held in the various counties during the summer 
of 1774 to elect delegates to the Provincial 
Congress, and to adopt instructions to them. 
These instructions invariably required the dele- 
gates to take a firm stand for the constitutional 
rights of the colonists, but at the same time most 
of them professed the utmost loyalty to the king. 
Rowan county, for instance, August 8, instructed 
its delegates to make a declaration that the 
people of Rowan were ready at any time to 
defend with their lives and fortunes "his Majes- 
ty's right and title to the Crown of Great Britain 
and his Dominions in America;" ^ while Johnston 
county, four days later, declared "that his 
Majesty's subjects in North America owe the 

1 Col. Rec., IX, 1024. 



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Independence 125 

same allegiance to the Crown of Great Britain that 
is due from his subjects bom in that kingdom or 
elsewhere."^ But both meetings were equally 
emphatic in claiming for the king's subjects in 
America "the same rights and liberties that his 
subjects within the Kingdom of Great Britain" 
enjoyed; hence they regarded taxation by Par- 
li ment as unjust, oppressive and unconstitu- 
tional, and thought it ought to be resisted. 
These professions of loyalty and claims to immu- 
nity from taxation by Parliament, are typical 
of the sentiment prevailing in the local meetings, 
and it is not necessary to quote others.^ Besides, 
the Provincial Congress, August 27, spoke for the 
province as a whole when it resolved "to main- 
tain and defend the succession of the House of 
Hanover as by law established,'' and avowed "in- 
violable and unshaken fidelity" to George III. ^ 

While these expressions undoubtedly represent 
the general sentiment of the colony at that time, 
they are less significant than other utterances 
which point to the change unconsciously work- 
ing in the minds of men. The first Provincial 
Congress, for instance, was the result of John 
Harvey's demand for "a convention independent 
of the governor;"* and the general meeting at 
Wilmington, July 21, which issued the call for 
a congress, emphasized the "constitutional liber- 

1 Col. Rec., IX, 1031. 

8 Col. Rec., IX, 1037, 1038, 1104. 

» Col. Rec., IX, 1044. 

* Col. Rec, IX, 968. 



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126 Cornelius Harnett 

ties of America," but neglected to make any 
mention of allegiance or loyalty to the king.^ 
Anson county, August 18, also omitted a profes- 
sion of loyalty to the Crown though denouncing 
in vigorous language ^'the late arbitrary and 
cruel acts of the British Parliament and other 
unconstitutional and oppressive measures of the 
British Ministry." * More significant than either 
were the instructions of Pitt county. Pitt's 
delegates were instructed to make "a declaration 
of American rights," and, while acknowledging 
**due subjection to the Crown of England," to 
make it equally clear that in submitting to the 
authority of the king, the Americans did so ''by 
their own voluntary act," and were entitled to 
enjoy "all their free chartered rights and liberties 
as British free subjects."* But surpassing all 
other resolutions in the clearness and accuracy 
with which they stated the American idea, and 
reaching the most advanced ground attained in 
North Carolina during the year 1774, were the 
instructions of Granville county, adopted August 
16. They declared "that those absolute rights 
we are entitled to as men, by the immuta- 
ble laws of nature, are antecedent to all social 
and relative duties whatsoever; that by the 
civil compact subsisting between our king and 
his people, allegiance is the right of the first 

1 Col. Rec, IX, lOlfl. 
« Col. Rec, IX, 1032. 
s Col. Rec., IX. 1030. 



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Independence 127 

magistrate, and protection the right of the people; 
that a violation of this compact would rescind 
the civil institution binding both king and people 
together." ^ 

Political sentiment in North Carolina, there- 
fore, during the year 1774 reached this point: 
The people owe and acknowledge allegiance to 
the king, but in return for this allegiance the king 
owes protection to the people; if either violates 
the "civil compact" subsisting between them, 
the other is released from all obligations to main- 
tain it; however, the acts of which the people 
now complain are not the acts of the king, but 
of a corrupt Parliament and a venal and tyran- 
nical ministry; the people are convinced that 
the king, if only they could reach the royal ears 
with their grievances, would throw the mantle 
of his protection aroimd them; and therefore 
they determined, in the words of the Granville 
resolutions: "Although we are oppressed, we 
will still adhere to the civil obligation exacting 
our allegiance to the best of kings, as we entertain 
a most cordial aflfection to his Majesty's person." 

A severe blow was dealt this position with the 
opening of the year 1775. In February the 
two houses of Parliament presented an address 
to the king declaring the colonies in rebellion, 
and assuring his Majesty of their determination 
to support him in his efforts to suppress it; and 
the king returning his thanks for their loyal 

1 Col. Rec, IX, 1034. 



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128 Cornelius Harnett 

address, called for an increase of both the land 
and naval forces to be used in America. A few 
months later those who held that the king was 
not responsible for the acts of Parliament were 
still further shaken in their position by the 
announcement that he was hiring Hessians for 
service against the Americans; and in October 
they were driven completely from their ground 
by his proclamation declaring the colonists out 
of his protection. 

The eflfect of these measures on the develop- 
ment of sentiment for independence is marked, 
first in the opinion of individual leaders, after- 
wards in the utterances of public assemblies. 
On April 7, just after the adjournment of the 
second Provincial Congress and the dissolution 
of the last Assembly held under royal authority. 
Governor Martin, in a letter to Lord Dartmouth, 
assured his lordship that he had taken every 
measure n his power "to resist the growth of a 
most daring spirit of sedition and disorder that 
is gaining groimd here very fast. * * * I am 
boimd in conscience and duty to add, my Lord," 
he continued, "that government is here as abso- 
lutely prostrate as impotent, and that nothing 
but the shadow of it is left. * * * j must 
further say, too, my Lord, that it is my serious 
opinion, which I communicate with the last 
degree of concern, that unless eflFectual measures 
such as British spirit may dictate are speedily 



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Independence 129 

taken there will not long remain a trace of Brit- 
ain 's dominion over these colonies."^ Three 
months later Joseph Hewes considered himself 
"over head and ears in what the ministry call re- 
bellion," but felt "no compimction" for the part 
he had taken, or for the nimiber of "enemies 
lately slain in the battle at Bmiker's Hill."* 
Another North Carolina Whig writing, July 31, 
to a business house in Edinburgh, declared that 
"every American, to a man, is determined to die 
or be free," and though professing loyalty to 
the king and disclaiming a desire for independence 
he closed his letter with the warning: "This 
coimtry, without some step is taken, and that 
soon, will be inevitably lost to the mother coun- 
try."^ Thomas McKnight, a Tory, believed 
there had been "from the beginning of the dispute 
a fixed design in some people's breasts to throw 
ofif every connection with Great Britain and to 
act for the future as totally independent." * After 
the king's proclamation in October, Hewes at 
Philadelphia entertained "but little expectation 
of a reconciliation" and saw "scarcely a dawn of 
hope that it will take place";* and thought that 
independence would come soon "if the British 
ministry pursue their present diabolical scheme."* 

1 Col. Rec, IX, 1214—16. 
» Col. Rec., X, 8«. 

• Col. Rec., X, 123. 

* Col. Rec., X. 249. 
» Col. Rec., X, 316. 

« Haselton : The Declaration of Independence ; Its History. 31. 
9 



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130 CoBNBUus Habnett 

The year 1775 closed in North Carolina with the 
publication of a remarkable open letter addressed 
to "The Inhabitants of the United Colonies/' 
and signed by one who called himself "A British 
American.'* He reviewed the causes of the 
dispute with the mother country; declared that 
the colonies had been forced against their wishes 
into a "just, necessary and honourably defensive 
war;" and maintained that 

"There is yet a way open for us, not only to 
escape the threatened ruin, but to become a 
happy, wealthy, powerful and respectable people. 
If it be asked how this great work is to be 
effected, I answer: 

"First. By declaring an immediate independ- 
ency; 

"Secondly. By holding forth, to all the Powers 
of Europe, a general neutrality; 

"Thirdly. By immediately opening all our 
ports, and declaring them free to every European 
Power, except Great Britain, and inviting foreign- 
ers to purchase our commodities, and to furnish 
us with arms, ammunition, and such manu- 
factures as we can not, as yet, fiunish ourselves 
with; which we can not do with any prospect of 
success, so long as we retain even but the shadow 
of dependence on, or subjection to Great Brit- 
am. * * * 

"We must separate, or become the laboring 
slaves of Britain, which we disdain to be. * * 



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Independence 131 

These things, I hope, will be duly considered 
by every inhabitant of America, as they are 
recommended to them to show the absurdity 
of continuing to petition and address, while our 
towns are in flames, and our inhabitants mur- 
dered, rather than separate from a cruel, blood- 
thirsty people, the cause of all our woes," * 

Men of course are more radical in expressing 
their opinions in private than in public assemblies 
and oflBcial documents. It will be found, there- 
fore, that during the year 1775 the sentiment 
of public assemblies, though much in advance 
of the sentiment of 1774, was more conserva- 
tively expressed than the private opinions of 
the leaders might lead us to expect. On April 
6, 1775, the Assembly of the province, in reply 
to a message from the governor reminding 
them of their duty to the king, declared that 
"the Assembly of North Carolina have the high- 
est sense of the allegiance due to the king; the 
oath so repeatedly taken by them to that purpose 
made it unnecessary for them to be reminded of 
it"; at the same time, however, they called the 
governor's attention to the fact that the king "was 
by the same constitution that established that 
allegiance and enjoined that oath, happily for his 
subjects, solemnly bound to protect them in all 
their just rights and privileges by which a recip- 
rocal duty became incumbent upon both."^ 

1 Force's American Archives, 4th Series, IV, 470—73. 
« Col. Rec., IX, 1198. 



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132 Cornelius Harnett 

This declaration was made before the people 
had heard of the address of Parliament in Febru- 
ary and the king's reply declaring them in rebel- 
lion. How quickly they assumed that the 
withdrawal of protection by the sovereign 
released the subject from the obligations of 
allegiance is made manifest by the Mecklenburg 
Resolutions of May 31. "Whereas," so runs 
this striking document, "by an address presented 
to his Majesty by both houses of Parliament in 
February last, the American colonies are declared 
to be in a state of actual rebellion, we conceive 
that all laws and conmaissions confirmed by or 
derived from the authority of the king and Parlia- 
ment are annulled and vacated and the former 
civil constitution of these colonies for the present 
wholly suspended;" therefore, it was resolved 
that "the Provincial Congress of each province 
imder the direction of the great Continental 
Congress is invested with all legislative and 
executive powers within their respective provinces 
and that no other legislative or executive power 
does or can exist at this time in any of these 
colonies." Under these circumstances it was 
thought necessary to inaugurate a new county 
government, to organize the militia, and to 
elect oflScials "who shall hold and exercise their 
several powers by virtue of this choice and 
independent of the Crown of Great Britain and 
former constitution of this province." These 



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Independence 133 

resolves and this organization were declared to 
be "in full force and virtue until instructions 
from the Provincial Congress regulating the 
jurisprudence of the province shall provide 
otherwise or the legislative body of Great Britain 
resign its unjust and arbitrary pretensions with 
respect to America." * 

The day after the meeting at Charlotte, the Row- 
an committee, which had declared a year before 
that they were ready to die in defense of the 
king's title to his American dominions, resolved, 
"that by the constitution of our government we 
are a free people"; that the constitution "limits 
both sovereignty and allegiance," and "that it 
is our duty to surrender our lives before our 
constitutional privileges to any set of men upon 
earth." ^ And, finally, in August, just before 
the meeting of the Provincial Congress, Tryon 
county resolved to bear true allegiance to the 
king, but only "so long as he secures to us those 
rights and liberties which the principles of our 
constitution require. " ^ 

Thus it seems clear that when the Provincial 
Congress met in August, 1775, the entire province 
had reached the advanced ground on which 
Granville county stood in August of 1774. But 
just as these local assemblies were more con- 
servative in expressing their sentiments than 

1 Col. Rec, IX, 1282—84. 
« Col. Rec, X, 10-11. 

> Col. Reo., X, 163. See alao IX, 1149, 1160-M ; X. 26, 20, 61, 171, 
and 239. 



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134 Cornelius Habnbtt 

individuals, so the Provincial Congress was more 
conservative than the local assemblies, though 
both were controlled largely by the same men. 
This Congress, September 8, unanimously adopt- 
ed an address to 'The Inhabitants of the British 
Empire," in which they said: 

"To enjoy the fruits of our own honest industry, 
to call that our own which we earn with the 
labor of our hands and the sweat of our brows; 
to regulate that internal policy by which we and 
not they [Parliament] are to be affected; these 
are the mighty boons we ask. And traitors, 
rebels, and every harsh appellation that malice 
can dictate or the virulence of language express, 
are the returns which we receive to the most 
humble petitions and earnest supplications. We 
have been told that independence is our object; 
that we seek to shake oflf all connection with 
the parent state. Cruel suggestion! Do not 
all our professions, all our actions, uniformly 
contradict this? 

"We again declare, and we invoke that Al- 
mighty Being who searches the recesses of the 
human heart and knows our most secret inten- 
tions, that it is our most earnest wish and prayer 
to be restored with the other United Colonies to 
the state in which we and they were placed 
before the year 1763. * * * 

"Whenever we have departed from the forms 
of the constitution, our own safety and 



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Independbnce 135 

self-preservation have dictated the expedient; 
and if in any instances we have assumed powers 
which the laws invest in the sovereign or his 
representatives, it has been only in defense of 
our persons, properties and those rights which 
God and the constitution have made unalienably 
ours. As soon as the cause of our fears and 
apprehensions are removed, with joy will we 
return these powers to their regular channels; 
and such institutions formed from mere necessity, 
shall end with that necessity that created them/" 

Soon after the adjournment of this Congress 
came news of the king^s proclamation in October 
declaring the Americans out of his protection 
and conmaanding his armies and navy to levy 
war against them. After this nothing more is 
heard from public assemblies and conventions 
of loyalty to the Crown. Sentiment hastened 
rapidly toward independence. "My first wish 
is to be free," declared Hooper, a delegate in the 
Continental Congress; "my second to be recon- 
ciled to Great Britain." ^ Six days later, February 
12, 1776, John Penn, also a delegate in the Con- 
tinental Congress, wrote to his friend Thomas 
Person: 

"I learn that Governor Martin has at length 
obtained his wishes; administration having 
agreed to send seven regiments to North Caro- 

1 Col. R«c., X, 201. 

* Alderman : William Hooper, 40. 



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136 Cornelius Harnett 

lina. * * * I make no doubt but the Southern 
Provinces will soon be the scene of action. * * 
I hope we to the Southward shall act like men 
determined to be free. * * * Should they 
[Parliament and the ministry] persevere in their 
attempts to reduce us to a state of slavery by 
carrying on this imnatural war with fire and 
sword, we must determine to act with unanimity 
and assume every power of government for the 
purpose of legislation in order to be the better 
able to defend ourselves. * * * For God's 
sake, my good sir, encourage our people, animate 
them to dare even to die for their country." ' 

Two days later he took an even more advanced 
position. 

" Our dispute with Britain, " he wrote, 
"grows serious indeed. Matters are drawing to 
a crisis. They seem determined to persevere 
and are forming alliances against us. Must 
we not do something of the like nature? Can 
we hope to carry on a war without having trade 
or commerce somewhere? Can we ever pay any 
taxes without it? Will not our paper money de- 
preciate if we go on emitting? These are serious 
things and require your consideration. The con- 
sequence of making alliances is perhaps a total 
separation with Britain and without something 
of that sort we may not be able to provide what 
is necessary for our defense.'' ^ 

t Col. Rec., X, 449. 
» Col. Rec., X, 456. 



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Independence 137 

And Hewes, writing from Congress to Samuel 
Johnston, March 20, declared: 

*'I see no prospect of a reconciliation. Nothing 
is left now but to fight it out. * * * Some among 
us urge strongly for independency and eternal 
separation; others wish to wait a little longer and 
to have the opinion of their constituents on that 
subject. You must give us the sentiment of 
your province when your convention meets.'' ^ 

Thus spoke the three delegates in the Conti- 
nental Congress; but in no respect were they 
in advance of their constituents. Samuel John- 
ston, writing March 3, expressed the opinion 
that the future might "offer a more favorable 
crisis for throwing off our connection with Great 
Britain;" but added: 

"It is, however, highly probable from anything 
that I have yet been able to learn of the dispo- 
sition of the people at home, from the public 
papers, for I have not lately received any letters, 
that the colonies will be under the necessity of 
throwing off their allegiance to the king and 
Parliament of Great Britain this summer. If 
France and Spain are hearty and sincere in our 
cause, or suflBiciently apprised of the importance 
of the connection with us to risk war with Great 
Britain, we shall undoubtedly succeed; if they 
are irresolute and play a doubtful game I shall not 
think our success so certain." ^ 



1 state Records of North Carolina, XI, 288—9. 
* MS. letter in the library at "Hayes." Copy in the collections of 
he North Carolina Historical Commission. 



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138 CoBNEuns Harnett 

Repljring to Hewes's inquiry of March 20th, 
he said: 

"I am inclined to think with you that there 
is little prospect of an acconunodation. You 
wish to know my sentiments on the subjects of 
treating with foreign powers and the independ- 
ence of the Colonies. I have apprehensions 
that no foreign power will treat with us till we 
disclaim our dependence on Great Britain and 
I would wish to have assurances that they would 
afford us effectual service before we take that 
step. I have, I assure you, no other scruples 
on this head; the repeated insults and injuries 
we have received from the people of my native 
island has [sic] done away all my partiality for 
a connection with them and I have no appre- 
hensions of our being able to establish and sup- 
port an independence if France and Spain would 
join us cordially and risque a war with Great 
Britain in exchange for our trade." ^ 

In a letter written from Petersburg, Virginia, 
April 12th, the writer says: 

''From several letters I have received from 
North Carolina eince that convention met, I 
find they are for independence, as they either 
have, or intend to repeal the instructions that 
were given to their delegates, and to leave them 
at Uberty to vote, upon every occasion, as they 
may think best. Mr. was some little time 

1 MS. letter in the library at " Hayes." Copy in the coUeotlons of 
the North Carolina Historical Commission. 



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Independence 139 

at Halifax. He says they are quite spirited 
and unanimous; indeed, I hear nothing praised 
but 'Common Sense' and Independence. The peo- 
ple of North Carolina are making great prepara- 
tions, and say they are determined to die hard.'^^ 

On April 14, Hooper and Penn arrived at 
Halifax from Philadelphia. Three days later 
Hooper wrote to Hewes, who had remained at 
Philadelphia, and Penn wrote to John Adams, 
describing the situation as they found it in Vir- 
ginia and North Carolina. 

"My progress through Virginia," said Hooper, 
"was marked with nothing extraordinary. 

* * * The language of Virginia is uni 
formly for independence. If there is a single 
man in that province who preaches a different 
doctrine I had not the fortune to fall in his 
company. But rapid as the change has been in 
Virginia, North Carolina has the honour of going 
far before them. Our late instructions afford 
you some specimen of the temper of the present 
Congress and of the people at large. It would 
be more than unpopular, it would be Toryism, 
to hint the possibility of future reconciliation. 
For my part if it were my sentiment that such 
conduct was premature, I should not think it 
prudent to avow it. We can not stem a torrent 
and one had better swim on the democratic flood 
than, vainly attempting to check it, be buried 
in it. * * * Britain has lost us by a series 

1 Force's American Archives, 4th Series, V, 862. 



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140 Cornelius Harnett 

of impolitic, wicked and savage actions as would 
have disgraced a nation of Hottentots. Human 
patience can bear no more and all ranks of 
people cry, 'that the cup of bitterness is full and 
running over. Let the miseries of separation 
be what they will they can not enhance our 
misery. We may be better, we can not be worse.' 
Thus they reason and when I survey what has 
been done I have too much the feeling of a man 
to attempt to reason them out of this effusion." ^ 

Likewise wrote Penn: 

"As I came through Virginia I found the 
inhabitants desirous to be independent from 
Britain. However, they were willing to sub- 
mit their opinion on the subject to what- 
ever the General Congress should determine. 
North Carolina by far exceeds them occasioned 
by the great fatigue, trouble and danger the 
people here have imdergone for some time past. 
Gentlemen of the first fortune in the province 
have marched as common soldiers; and to 
encourage and give spirit to the men have footed 
it the whole time. Lord Comwallis with seven 
regiments is expected to visit us every day. 
Clinton is now in Cape Fear with Governor 
Martin, who has about forty sail of vessels, 
armed and unarmed, waiting his arrival. The 
Highlanders and Regulators are not to be trusted. 
Governor Martin has coaxed a number of slaves 



1 MS. letter In the library at " Hayes." Copy in the collections of 
the North Carolina Historical Commission. 



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Independence 141 

to leave their masters in the lower parts; every- 
thing base and wicked is practiced by him. 
These things have wholly changed the temper 
and disposition of the inhabitants that are 
friends to liberty; all regard or fondness for the 
king or nation of Britain is gone; a total separa- 
tion is what they want. Independence is the 
word most used. They ask if it is possible that 
any colony after what has passed can wish for 
a reconciliation? The convention have tried 
to get the opinion of the people at large. I 
am told that in many counties there was not 
one dissenting voice." ^ 

Thus in letters, in conversations by the fireside 
and at the cross-roads, in newspapers, and in 
public assemblies, the Whig leaders worked 
steadily to mould public sentiment in favor of 
a Declaration of Independence. But the crown- 
ing arguments that converted thousands to this 
view were the guns of Caswell and Lillington 
at Moore's Creek Bridge in the early morning 
hours of February 27, and the black hulks of 
Sir Henry Clinton's men-of-war as they rode at 
anchor below Brunswick. Moore's Creek Bridge, 
says Frothingham, "was the Lexington and 
Concord of that region. The newspapers cir- 
culated the details of this brilliant result. The 
spirits of the Whigs ran high. 'You never,' 

1 Quoted by Swain in "The British Invasion in 1776," published in 
Cooke's "Revolutionary History of North Carolina," 125. There 
incorrectly dated as April 7, 1776. See Hazelton's " Declaration of In- 
dependence," 83, 402. 



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142 Cornelius Harnett 

one wrote, 'knew the like in your life for true 
patriotism. ' '' ^ In the midst of this excitement 
the Provincial Congress met, April 4, at Halifax. 
The next day Samuel Johnston wrote: *'A11 our 
people here are up for independence,"^ and 
added a few dayB later: "We are going to the 
devil * * * without knowing how to help 
ourselves, and though many are sensible of this, 
yet they would rather go that way than to 
submit to the British ministry. * * * Our 
people are full of the idea of independence.'*^ 
"Independence seems to be the word," wrote 
General Robert Howe; "I know not one dis- 
senting voice." * 

To this position, then, within a year, the 
king had driven his faithful subjects of North 
Carolina and they now expected their Congress 
to give formal and public expression to their 
sentiments. When Hooper and Penn arrived 
at Halifax they found that the Congress had 
already spoken. On April 8, six days before 
their arrival, a committee was appointed, com- 
posed of Cornelius Harnett, Allen Jones, Thomas 
Burke, Abner Nash, John Kinchen, Thomas 
Person, and Thomas Jones, "to take into con- 
sideration the usurpations and violences attempt- 
ed and committed by the king and Parliament 

1 The Rise of the Republic. 503. 

s MoRee'a Life and Correspondence of James Iredell, I, 275. 
s MS. letter in hbrary at " Hasrea." Copy In the collections of the 
North Carolina Historical Commission. 
* Haaelton: Declaration of Independence, 84. 



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Independence 143 

of Britain against America, and the further 
measures to be taken for frustrating the same, 
and for the better defense of this province.''^ 
To Cornelius Harnett fell the task of drafting 
the committee's report. With great self-control, 
in a report remarkable for its calm dignity and 
restraint, but alive with suppressed emotion, he 
drew an indictment against the British ministry 
not equaled by any similar docmnent of the 
Revolutionary period, except only the great 
Declaration itself. After deliberating for four 
days, on April 12th, this committee, through 
Cornelius Harnett, submitted its report. "In 
ringing sentences, not unworthy of Burke or 
Pitt,'' says Dr. Smith, "the report set forth in a 
short preamble the usurpations of the British 
ministry and 'the moderation hitherto manifested 
by the United Colonies.' Then came the decla- 
ration which to those who made it meant long 
years of desolating war, smoking homesteads, 
widowed mothers, and fatherless children, but 
to us and our descendants a heritage of imperish- 
able glory." ^ This is the report which Cornelius 
Harnett read and the Congress unanimously 
adopted: 

"It appears to your committee, that pursuant 
to the plan concerted by the British ministry 
for subjugating America, the king and Parlia- 
ment of Great Britain have usurped a power 

1 Col. Reo.. X, 504. 

s C. Alphonso Smith: Our Debt to Cornelius Harnett: North Caro- 
lina Univeraity Magaiine. May, 1907. 302. 



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144 Cornelius Harnett 

over the persons and properties of the people un- 
limited and uncontrolled; and disregarding their 
humble petitions for peace, liberty and safety, 
have made divers legislative acts, denouncing 
war, famine, and every species of calamity, 
against the continent in general. That British 
fleets and armies have been, and still are daily 
employed in destroying the people, and commit- 
ting the most horrid devastations on the country. 
That governors in different colonies have declared 
protection to slaves who should imbrue their 
hands in the blood of their masters. That ships 
belonging to America are declared prizes of war, 
and many of them have been violently seized 
and confiscated. In consequence of all which 
multitudes of the people have been destroyed, or 
from easy circumstances reduced to the most 
lamentable distress. 

"And whereas the moderation hitherto mani- 
fested by the United Colonies and their sincere 
desire to be reconciled to the mother country 
on constitutional principles, have procured no 
mitigation of the aforesaid wrongs and usurpa- 
tions, and no hopes remain of obtaining redress 
by those means alone which have been hitherto 
tried, your committee are of opinion that the 
House should enter into the following resolve, 
to wit: 

"Resolved, That the delegates for this colony in 
the Continental Congress be impowered to con- 



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Independence 145 

cur with the delegates of the other colonies in 
declaring independency, and forming foreign 
alliances, reserving to this colony the sole and 
exclusive right of forming a constitution and 
laws for this colony, and of appointing delegates 
from time to time (under the direction of a 
general representation thereof,) to meet the 
delegates of the other colonies for such purposes 
as shall be hereafter pointed out.'' * 

"Thus,'' declares Frothingham, "the popular 
party carried North Carolina as a unit in favor 
of independence, when the colonies from New 
England to Virginia were in solid array against 
it."^ Comment is unnecessary. The actors, 
the place, the occasion, the time, the action 
itself, tell their own story. "The American 
Congress," declared Bancroft, "needed an impulse 
from the resolute spirit of some colonial conven- 
tion, and the example of a government springing 
wholly from the people. * * * The word 
which South Carolina hesitated to pronounce 
was given by North Carolina. That colony, 
proud of its victory over domestic enemies, and 
roused to defiance by the presence of Clinton, 
the British general, in one of their rivers, * * 
unanimously" voted for separation. "North 
Carolina was the first colony to vote explicit 
sanction to independence." * 

1 Col. Rec.. X, 512. 
s The Rifle of the Republic, p. 604. 

• History of the United States, ed. 1860, VIII, 34J^-352. The lan- 
suage, but not the sense, is slightly modified in later editions. 

10 



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146 Cornelius Harnett 

A copy of the resolution was immediately 
hurried oflf to Joseph Hewes at Philadelphia.' 
Its effect on the movement for independence 
in the other colonies was felt at once. "This 
was a move of the greatest importance/' says 
Elson, "and it was but a short time until Rhode 
Island and then Massachusetts followed the 
example of their Southern sister." * Frothing- 
ham declares: "The example was warmly wel- 
comed by the patriots, and commended for 
imitation."* The correspondence of the period 
bears out his statement. The newspapers printed 
the resolution and held it up to the other colonies 
as an example to be followed. The leaders in 
the Continental Congress hastened to lay it 
before their constituents. Samuel Adams, the 
foremost man in New England in fostering the 
sentiment for independence, wrote, April 30, 
to a friend in Boston: 

"The idea of independence spreads far and 
wide among the colonies. Many of the leading 
men see the absurdity of supposing that allegiance 
is due to a sovereign who has already thrown us 
out of his protection. * * * The convention 
of North Carolina has * * * revoked certain 
instructions which tied the hands of their dele- 
gates here. Virginia, whose convention is to 
meet on the 3d of next month, will follow the 

1 Col. Reo., X, 495, 604. 

s Hiatory of the United States, 252. 

• The Rl8e of the RepubUc. 504. 



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Independence 147 

lead. * * * We can not make events; our 
business is wisely to improve them. * * * 
Mankind are governed more by their feelings 
than by reason. Events which excite those 
feelings will produce wonderful events. The 
Boston Port Bill suddenly wrought an union 
of the colonies which could not have been brought 
about by the industry of years in reasoning on 
the necessity of it for the common safety. * 

* * * The burning of Norfolk and the 
hostilities committed in North Carolina have 
kindled the resentment of our Southern brethren, 
who once thought their Eastern friends hot- 
headed and rash. Now, indeed, the tone is 
altered, and it is said that the coolness and 
moderation of the one is necessary to allay the 
heat of the other. There is reason that would 
induce one to wish for the speedy arrival of the 
British troops that are expected at the South- 
ward. I think our friends are well prepared 
for them, and one battle would do more towards 
a Declaration of Independence than a long chain 
of conclusive argiunents in a Provincial Conven- 
tion or the Continental Congress." ^ 

The next day. May 1, Elbridge Gerry, another 
of the delegates from Massachusetts in the 
Continental Congress, wrote with reference to 
independence: 

"I am glad you approve the proposals for 

1 Welb : The Life and Public Servlcea of Samuel Adams, Vol. 2, pp. 
2»*-6. 



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148 Cornelius Harnett 

instructions, and can with pleasure inform you 
that North Carolina has taken off from their 
[sic] delegates the restrictions relative to this 
matter, and as I am informed has left them at 
liberty to vote for a final separation from Great 
Britam.'' * 

The 28th of the same month, after Virginia 
had foUovved the example of North Carolina, 
he wrote: 

"Some days since I enclosed to our worthy 
friend Major Hawley sundry newspapers con- 
taining intelligence of importance, but not so 
agreeable in its nature as the enclosed papers 
announce relative to our sister colonies of Vir- 
ginia and North Carolina. Their conventions 
have imanimously declared for independency, 
and have in this respect exceeded their sister 
colonies in a most noble and decisive measure. 
I hope it will be forthwith communicated to 
your honorable Assembly, and hope to see my 
native colony follow this laudable example.''^ 

Three days later he recurred again to the same 
subject: 

"The conviction which the late measures of 
administration have brought to the minds of 
doubting persons has such an effect, that I think 
the colonies can not long remain an independent 
depending people, but that they will declare 

1 Austin : The Life of Elbridge Gerry, p. 178. 
> Ibid.: pp. 180-L 



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Independence 149 

themselves as their interest and safety have 
long required, entirely separated from the pros- 
tituted government of Great Britain * * * 
The principal object of our attention at this 
important time, I think, should be the manu- 
facturing arms, lead and clothing, and obtaining 
flints, for I suppose since the measures adopted 
by North Carolina and Virginia that there 
can not remain a doubt with our Assembly of the 
propriety of declaring for independency, and 
therefore that our thoughts will be mostly directed 
to the means for supporting it.'' * 

May 29 Caesar Rodney, a delegate from Dela- 
ware, wrote to Thomas Rodney: 

"The colonies of North Carolina and Virginia 
have both by their conventions declared for 
Independence by a unanimous vote; and have 
instructed their members to move and vote 
for it in Congress/' ^ 

Perhaps no man welcomed with greater joy the 
example of North Carolina in moving for inde- 
pendence than John Adams, the great "Colossus 
of Independence." Writing May 29 to a friend 
in regard to the British vessels in Boston harbor, 
he said: 

"I am much pleased with your spirited project 
of driving away the wretches from the harbor, 
and never shall be happy till I hear it is done, 
and the very entrance fortified impregnably. 

1 Hazelton : The Declaration of Independence, p. 107. 
> Ibid., 425. 



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150 Cornelius Harnett 

I can not bear that an unfriendly flag should 
be in sight of Bacon [sic] Hill. You are 'checked 
by accounts from the southward, of a disposition 
in a great majority to counteract independence.' 
Read the proceedings of Georgia, South and 
North Carolina, and Virginia, and then judge. "^ 
And again, June 1, he wrote to Isaac Smith: 
"Your observations upon the oppressive sever- 
ity of the old regulations of trade * * * are 
very just. But if you consider the resolution 
of Congress, and that of Virginia of the 15th of 
May, the resolutions of the two Carolinas and 
Georgia, each of which colonies are instituting 
new governments under the authority of the 
people, * * * I believe you will be con- 
vinced that there is little probability of our ever 
again coming under the yoke of British regulations 
of trade." ' 

Thus was the example of North Carolina 
welcomed by the advocates of independence 
who urged their constituents to follow her lead. 
Virginia did so May 15, and on the 27th of the 
same month, just after Joseph Hewes had pre- 
sented to the Continental Congress the resolution 
of the North Carolina Congress, the delegates 
from Virginia presented their instructions. ^ Vir- 
ginia had gone one step further than North Car- 
olina, for while the latter "impowered" her 

1 C. F. Adams : The Works of John Adams. IX. 379. 

> Ibid.. IX. 383. 

s Ford : Journals of the Continental Congress, IV, 397. 



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Independence 151 

« 
delegates to ''concur" with the other colonies in 

declaring independence, the former "instructed" 
her representatives to "propose" it. Hence it 
was that Richard Henry Lee, of Virginia, and 
not Joseph Hewes, of North Carohna, won the 
distinction of moving "that these United Colo- 
nies are and of right ought to be free and inde- 
pendent States." Richard Henry Lee well deserves 
his great fame as a Revolutionary statesman, 
but it ought not to be forgotten that in the great 
act of moving for independence he trod the way 
which Cornelius Harnett had already n:arked 
out. 



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IX 
THE INDEPENDENT GOVERNMENT 

After the Resolution of April 12th, the Con- 
gress of North Carolina proceeded as if independ- 
ence were an assured fact. Immediately the 
task of reorganizing the government was taken 
up. On April 13th a committee was appointed 
"to prepare a temporary civil constitution."^ 
Prominent among the members of this committee 
were Johnston, Nash, Harnett, Burke, and 
Person. Hooper was afterwards added. They 
were men of poUtical sagacity and ability, but 
their ideas of the kind of constitution that ought 
to be adopted were wofully inharmonious. 
Heretofore in the measiu*es of resistance to the 
British ministry remarkable unanimity had 
prevailed in the councils of the Whigs. But 
when they undertook to frame a constitution 
faction at once raised its head. In after years 
historians designated these factions as "Con- 
servatives" and "Radicals." These terms carry 
their own meaning, and need no further expla- 
nation, but perhaps it may not be out of place 
to say that while both were equally devoted to 
constitutional Uberty, the Radicals seem to have 
laid the greater emphasis upon "liberty," the 
Conservatives upon the modifier "constitutional." 
Of the members of the committee, Thomas 

1 Col. Reo.. X. 515. 



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The Independent Government 153 

Person was the leader of the former, Samuel 
Johnston of the latter. As the lines between 
the two factions were not sharply drawn, it is 
not always possible to assign prominent poli- 
ticians to either; indeed, many of them would 
not have admitted that they belonged to any 
faction, for agreeing with some of the views of 
both, they agreed with the extreme views of 
neither. To this class Cornelius Hamett seems 
to have belonged. His contributions to the 
constitutional history of the State indicate that 
he was not so conservative as Johnston nor so 
radical as Person, while throughout his career 
he retained the respect and confidence of both. 
Congress soon found that no agreement could 
be reached, while continued debate on the con- 
stitution would consume time that ought to be 
given to more urgent matters. Accordingly 
on April 30th, the committee was discharged and 
a second committee appointed to frame ''a 
temporary form of government until the end of 
the next Congress." This conmiittee brought 
in a report on May 11th, which the Congress 
promptly adopted.^ But few changes were made 
in the plan already in operation, but these 
changes were not without significance. The 
district conmiittees of safety were abolished. 
The term "Provincial" was thought to be no 
longer appropriate and "Coimcil of Safety" was 
accordingly substituted for "Provincial Council." 

1 Col. Rec., X. 679. 



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154 Cornelius Harnett 

No change was made in its organization. The 
Provincial Council had been required to sit 
once in every three months; the Council of 
Safety was to sit continuously, and its authority 
was considerably extended. All the powers of 
its predecessor were bequeathed to it, while 
among its additional powers was the authority 
to grant letters of marque and reprisal; to estab- 
lish courts and appoint judges of admiralty; 
and to appoint commissioners of navigation 
to enforce the trade regulations of the Conti- 
nental and Provincial Congresses. 

The election of the members of the Council 
of Safety revealed the growth of factions. Willie 
Jones, chief of the Radicals, defeated Samuel 
Johnston for member at large. Other changes 
in the membership were as follows: in the New 
Bern, District, John Simpson for Abner Nash; 
in the Halifax District, Joseph John Williams 
in place of Willie Jones; in the Hillsboro District, 
John Rand for John Kinchen; in the Salisbury 
District, Hezekiah Alexander and William Sharpe, 
both new members. Two only of the six districts 
retained their same members, Edenton District 
reelected Jones and Hill; Wilmington District, 
Harnett and Ashe. The other members who 
retained their seats were Coor, Eaton and 
Person. 

Such was the personnel of the Council that was 
to put into execution the measures of the Congress 



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The Independent Government 155 

for the defense of the province. This was the 
most important business that came before Con- 
gress. Clinton with a large force of British 
regulars was at Cape Fear awaiting the arrival 
of Sir Peter Parker's fleet with Comwallis's 
army. "Our whole time," wrote Thomas Jones, 
May 7, "has been taken up here in raising and 
arming men, and making every necessary mili- 
tary arrangement. The word is war, or as 
Virgil expresses it, bella, horrida bella. Two 
thousand ministerial troops are in Cape Fear, 
5,000 more hourly expected; to oppose the whole 
will require a large force.''* The Congress, 
accordingly, in addition to the troops already 
in the field, ordered the levying of four conti- 
nental regiments, the enlistment of three com- 
panies of light-horse, the drafting of 1,500 militia, 
and the organization into five companies of 
415 independent volunteers. The light-horse 
were offered to the Continental Congress and 
accepted; the militia were ordered to Wilmington 
"for the protection of this province;" and the 
independent companies were directed to patrol 
the coast against the ravages of small armed 
vessels which were accustomed in this way to 
secure fresh supplies for the troops below Wil- 
mington. 

It was comparatively an easy matter to raise 
these troops; to clothe, feed and equip them 
was another problem. It is of course, unneces- 

1 Col. Rec., X, 1038. 



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156 Cornelius Harnett 

sary to say that this was a problem that was 
not solved at all during the Revolution, either 
by the Continental Congress or by the North 
Carolina Congress; but perhaps the latter came 
as near to it as the former, or as any of the States. 
This was the work in which ComeUus Harnett 
was most actively concerned. In the Congress 
at Halifax he served on committees to ascertain 
the amount of gunpowder in the province; to 
form an estimate of the expense of supporting 
the troops; to draw up regulations for the com- 
missary department; to devise measures for 
defense of the coast; and to draft a form of 
commission for privateers. But his most impor- 
tant work was on a committee "to take into 
consideration the most practical and expeditious 
method of supplying the province with arms, 
ammunition, warlike stores and supplies, and also 
the expediency of erecting, works for the making 
of saltpeter, gunpowder and purifying sulphur." 
This committee recommended the erection at 
Halifax of a plant for the manufacture of salt- 
peter; the erection somewhere in Halifax county 
of a powder mill; the establishment of salt 
works in various places; the erection of a gun 
factory in each of the six military districts; and 
the purchase or rental of certain furnaces and 
iron works for casting pieces of ordnance, shot 
and other warhke material. The report was 
adopted by the Congress; how its provisions 



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The Independent Government 157 

were to be carried into execution was a matter 
for the Council of Safety. Their eflfectiveness 
must be judged by their results. Certainly 
they fell short of what was desired, yet during 
the summer of 1776, they saved North Carolina 
from invasion, they enabled the troops of the 
province to participate with credit in the defense 
of Charleston, and they were sufficient to crush 
the Indians on the western frontier. If to these 
results we add the overthrow of the Highlanders 
at Moore's Creek Bridge, and the impetus given 
to the cause of independence by the Resolution 
of April 12th, it will appear that at least during 
the spring and simamer of 1776 North Carolina 
was not backward in the common cause. 

While these events were occurring, Cornelius 
Harnett was at the head of the provisional 
government. We may almost say that they 
occurred during his administration, for certainly 
no man contributed more to these results than he. 
In the Congress he served on more committees 
concerned in devising measures of defense than 
any other man. He wrote the Resolution of 
April 12th. He was president of the Provincial 
Council and of the Council of Safety to which 
were entrusted the execution of ordinances and 
the direction of armies, and as such he guided the 
aflfairs of both with such a measure of success 
that the enemy attributed to him more than to 
any of his colleagues the downfall of the royal 



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158 Cornelius Harnett 

government and the spirited conduct of the Rev- 
olutionary program. Referring to the work of the 
Halifax Congress, Governor Martin, writing in 
November from New York, says: "By a person 
who left North Carolina in the month of Septem- 
ber list, I am informed the rebels in that colony 
were so infatuated with the idea of being an inde- 
pendent State, as declared by the Congress [April 
12], that they have struck paper money with so 
liberal a hand, for the support of the war, as to 
have emitted £550,000, which vast siun was 
then [in September] nearly expended. The 
leaders of their politics at that time were Corne- 
lius Harnett, Willie Jones, and Thomas Jones, 
who are all very guilty characters. * * * To 
what an extreme of madness is this People 
arrived!" ^ More than a year before, Martin, 
as we have seen, had selected Harnett, Ashe, 
Howe and Nash as persons worthy of the king's 
special vengeance because they stood "foremost 
among the patrons of revolt and anarchy." 
Since then Howe's work in the field, and Harnett's 
work in the Council, had multiplied many times 
their score of offenses, and Martin treasured 
them up to be laid before the British commander 
upon his arrival in the province. Accordingly, 
on May 5, 1776, from the cabin of the PaUisser, 
as she rode at anchor in Cape Fear River below 
Wilmington, Sir Henry Clinton issued his proc- 
lamation declaring the colony in rebellion, and 

1 Col. Reo.. X, 000. 



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The Independent Government 159 

stating that he had it in conunand from the king 
to proceed against all men or bodies of men in 
arms, and all congresses and committees "as 
against open enemies of the State/' However 
before it was too late, he desired "from the prin- 
ciple of humanity" to forewarn the deluded 
people of the miseries ever attendant upon 
civil war, and to "entreat and exhort'' them 
"to appease the vengeance of an injured and 
justly incensed Nation by a return to their duty 
to our common sovereign, and to the blessings 
of a free government as established by law." 
To give them a last chance to do so, he offered 
"in his Majesty's name free pardon to all such 
as shall lay down their arms and submit to the 
laws, excepting only from the benefits of such 
pardon Cornelius Harnett and Robert Howes."^ 
"Cornelius Harnett," thus comments Froth- 
ingham, "was the foremost actor in the movement 
for independency, and Howe, having accepted 
a commission from the Provincial Congress, 
was rendering noble service in the field." ^ One 
month later, June 5, the Council of Safety met 
at Wilmington, and in reply to Clinton's procla- 
mation unanimously elected Harnett president.^ 

1 Col. Rec., X, 591—^92. For this spelling of Robert Howe's name 
see note p. 101. 

s Rise of the Republic, 504. 

s Harnett served until August 21, when he resigned and was suc- 
ceeded by Samuel Ashe. Ashe resigned in September and was suc- 
ceeded by Willie Jones. The Council was in session at Wilmington 
from June 6 to 15 ; at the house of William Whitfield, on Neuse river, 
near the present town of Kinston, from June 19 to Jiily 16 ; at Halifax 
from July 21 to August 13 ; at the house of Joel Lane, the site of the 
present city of Raleigh, from August 21 to 28 ; at Salisbury from Sep- 
tember 6 to September 13 ; at HaUf ax from September? to 2 October 26. 



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160 Cornelius Harnett 

An attempt to follow in detail the numerous 
problems presented for the consideration of 
President Harnett and his colleagues would 
doubtless make but a dull and lifeless narrative. 
Yet upon the proper disposition of these matters 
depended the execution of laws, the adminis- 
tration of justice, the preservation of order, and 
the success of armies; and when we consider these 
facts, we may well doubt whether in subordi- 
nating such details to more dramatic and striking 
events, the narrative does not lose in instructive- 
ness what it may gain in interest. The fidelity 
with which the members of the Council attended 
to the details of these problems is a good index 
to their characters and patriotism. Nothing 
less than boundless faith in the justice of their 
cause and in its ultimate success could have 
sustained them in the discharge of their delicate 
and exacting duties. There was nothing in the 
character of their labor, such as the soldier 
finds in the excitement of the campaign, to 
lighten fatigue or banish anxiety. Nor were 
thfey, like the soldier, inspired by the hope of 
glory and renown; on the contrary their duties 
were of such a nature that to discharge them 
with fidelity and impartiality, would more likely 
invite criticism and denunciation than applause 
and popularity. There was no popular applause 
to be gained by even the strictest attention to 
the commonplace details incident to the detection, 



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The Independent Government 161 

apprehension and punishment of rioters, counter- 
feiters, traitors and other malefactors. Little pop- 
ularity was to be expected from efforts, however 
successful, to adjust disputes among army officers 
over their relative ranks; to pass impartially 
upon applications for military and civil com- 
missions; to hear and determine justly appeals for 
pardon and prayers for mercy; to enforce rigid 
discipline among a mutinous soldiery; to execute 
martial law against former friends and neighbors 
whose only crime was refusal to join in rebellion 
and revolution; to enforce without an adequate 
police obedience to a confessedly revolutionary 
government among those who denied its moral 
or legal right to rule. Whatever glory was to be 
won by successful military achievements all 
knew well enough would go to the soldiers in the 
field, not to the coimcilors in the cabinet who, 
by grinding out their spirits and lives over 
details of organizing and equipping armies, made 
such success possible. Nevertheless, day and 
night, week in and week out. President Harnett 
and his associates with unfailing tact, patience 
and energy, and with remarkable success, gave 
conscientious and efficient attention to a thousand 
and one details as iminspiring as they were 
necessary. In the discharge of his duties as 
president, says McRee, "Harnett sustained 
himself with masterly ability, overcoming diffi- 
culties by his energy, illuminating perplexing 
11 



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162 Cornelius Harnett 

questions with the light of a disciplined and 
highly cultured intellect. He commanded the 
respect of all by his stability of purpose and 
dignity, and attached to himself by his fascinat- 
ing address and power of persuasion a multitude 
of friends." * 

The chief problems of the Coimcil related to 
defense." The Indians on the frontier, the 
Tories of the interior, and Clinton on the coast 
threatened the province with attack from three 
directions. A few days before the Coimcil met, 
Clinton withdrew from the Cape Fear river, 
but nobody knew where he had gone nor what 
his plans were, and all apprehended that his 
movement was but a change of base for an attack 
on North Carolina. Clinton did contemplate 
such a movement, but was frustrated by the 
activity of the committees and the Coimcil. 
The Council's problem was to organize and 
equip the troops ordered by the Congress. 
The organization was more tedious than difficult, 
but it required much time and labor. A harder 
task was to equip them. Even the utmost exer- 
tions of the Coimcil could not keep the several 
arsenals sufficiently supplied to meet the constant 
calls on them for arms and ammunition. The 
Council continued to press into public service 
arms found in private hands; they appointed 

i ** Cornelius Harnett," in the Wilmington Chronicle, copied in the 
Raleigh Register, August 30, 1844. 

B The proceedings of the Council are printed in Col. Rec, X, 618 — 
647 ; 682-707 ; 82fr-^30 ; 873—881. 



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The Independent Government 163 

commissioners to purchase warlike supplies; 
they imported them from other states; they 
manufactured them; they purchased them in the 
North through the delegates in the Continental 
Congress; and they chartered vessels which 
they loaded with cargoes of staves and shingles 
to be exchanged for military supplies. The 
Polly, the Heart of Oak, the King Fisher, the 
lAlly, the Little ThomaSy the Johnston, and other 
fast sailing vessels slipped through the inlets 
of eastern Carolina, ran down to the West Indies, 
sold their cargoes of lumber, and eluding the 
British cruisers which patrolled those waters 
returned safely to Ocracoke, Edenton, and New 
Bern with cargoes of small arms, cannon, gun- 
powder, salt, clothes and shoes. Their enter- 
prising crews, the prototypes of the more famous 
blockade-rimners of later days, continued this 
work throughout the Revolution, and made no 
inconsiderable contributions to the cause of 
American independence. The Council issued 
letters of marque and reprisal to the Pennsylvania 
Farmer, the King Tammany, the General Wash- 
ington, the Heart of Oak, and the Johnston; and 
they organized courts of admiralty and appointed 
judges. They set up iron works for casting 
cannon and shot, and salt works for supplying 
that necessary article. In one way or another 
they managed to put into the field equipped for 
service 1,400 splendid troops for the defense of 
Charleston, 300 militia for the aid of Virginia 



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164 Cornelius Harnett 

against the Indians, and an army of 2,500 rifle- 
men for a campaign against the Creeks and 
Cherokees beyond the AUeghanies. * 

Cornelius Harnett inspired his colleagues with 
the same continental spirit that was the most 
striking characteristic of his own statesmanship 
and they brought to their task a breadth of view 
that recognized no boimdary between colonies 
struggling in the common cause. Without hesi- 
tation they sent their continental troops and mili- 
tia into South Carolina for the defense of Charles- 
ton; and President Harnett assured President Rut- 
ledge that "this colony will upon all occasions 
afford South Carolina every possible assistance."^ 
Troops, arms, ammunition and supplies, were 
poured into that colony with a Uberality that 
"left this colony almost in a defenseless state, 
defenseless and very, very alarming, * * * 
as we have every reason to expect General 
Clinton's return here should he fail in his expe- 
dition against South Carolina."* Virginia, 
threatened by Indians on her western frontier, 
besought the North Carolina Coimcil for aid, 
which was promptly supplied over the protest 
of their own conmiander in the western district.* 



1 This expedition was under the command of General Griffith Ruth- 
erford. It was ** the greatest expedition ever sent against the Chero- 
kee," and was waged "with such distinguished success that both North 
CaroUna and Tennessee have named counties in his { Rutherford's ] 
honor." 19th Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, 
1897-98, Part I, 206. 

s state Rec., XI, 313. 

8 state Rec., XT, 299, 309. 

4 Col. Rec, X, 671, 680 ; State Rec. XI, 313. 



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The Independent Government 165 

South Carolina and Georgia both sought permis- 
sion to recruit in North Carolina, and received 
from the Council not permission merely, but 
"every facility and assistance" in their work. 
"We have given every facility and assistance to 
the recruiting officers from the State of Georgia," 
wrote the Council to the North Carolina delegates 
in the Continental Congress, "and have the 
pleasure to acquaint you that they have met 
with great success." * Indeed, so great was 
their success that John Penn thought it would 
"be prudent to stop the officers of the neighboring 
states from enlisting any more men in North 
Carolina until we have completed our quota. "^ 
Prudent it would imdoubtedly have been, but 
prudence of such a nature as did not appeal 
to Cornelius Harnett and his associates of the 
Council. They cared little whether the men 
were enlisted imder the banner of North CaroUna, 
Virginia, South Carolina or Georgia, provided 
only they were under the banner of the United 
States. Consequently North Carolina became 
the "recruiting groimd for the entire South," 
and many a soldier who followed the flag of 
another State thought, as he struck down his 
country's foes, of his little cabin nestling among 
the pines of the Old North State. It was the 
manifestation of this spirit that led Charles 
Pinckney, of South Carolina, referring to North 

1 state Rec.. XI. 350. 
» Col. Reo., X, 802. 



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166 Cornelius Harnett 

Carolina's "zeal for the glorious cause in which 
they are engaged," to declare with pardonable 
exaggeration: "They have been so willing and 
ready on all occasions to afford us all the assist- 
ance in their power, that I shall ever love a 
North Carolinian, and join with Colonel Moul- 
trie in confessing that they have been the salva- 
tion of this country." ^ 

This work of the Coimcil was done in spite 
of a strong and energetic domestic enemy in 
their own midst. The Tories of North Carolina, 
as the Council declared, were "a numerous 
body of people * * * who, although lately 
subdued, are only waiting a more favorable 
opportunity to wreak their vengeance upon us." 
The Tories hoped and the Whigs feared that this 
opportunity would come through a British 
success either at Wilmington or at Charleston. 
Moore's Creek Bridge had warned the former 
of the folly of an uprising without the coopera- 
tion of the British army, and the result at Charles- 
ton dashed their hopes of an immediate insur- 
rection. Nevertheless they regarded this as 
only a temporary setback which necessitated 
a postponement but not a surrender of their 
plans. Though forced to work more quietly, 
they seized every opportunity to imdermine 
and coimteract the work of the Council. The 
Council, therefore, were compelled to devote 
a large part of their time to the detection and 

1 McCrady: South CaroUnB In the Revolution, 1775-1780, p. 3H. 



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The Independent Government 167 

punishment of these domestic enemies. Their 
active leaders were arrested and brought before 
the Council on such general charges as denoimc- 
ing the Council and the committees for exercis- 
ing arbitrary and tyrannical powers; as uttering 
"words inimical to the cause of liberty''; as 
endeavoring "to inflame the minds of the 
people against the present American measures"; 
as using their influence to prevent the people 
from "associating in the common cause." More 
specific charges were correspondence with the 
enemy; refusal to receive the continental cur- 
rency; and efforts to depreciate both the con- 
tinental and provincial bills of credit. The 
Council dealt with each case upon its individual 
merits. In a general way, however, they per- 
mitted those who were willing to subscribe 
the test and submit to the Revolutionary govern- 
ment to remain at home unmolested. They 
"naturalized" prisoners captm-ed in battle who 
expressed a willingness to take the oath of alle- 
giance, and admitted them to the privileges 
of free citizens. Persons suspected of dis- 
affection, but who had committed no overt act, 
were required to give bond for their good behavior. 
Those whose presence among their neighbors 
was regarded as dangerous were taken from 
their homes and paroled within prescribed 
limits; while the most active leaders were impris- 
oned, some in North Carolina, some in Virginia 



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168 Cornelius Harnett 

and some in Philadelphia. The last two methods 
of pimishment in some cases worked real hard- 
ships and moving appeals were made to President 
Harnett for relaxations of the restrictions. 
While a majority of the cases that came before 
the Council involved the conduct of individuals 
only, a few instances were reported in which 
something like general disaffection appeared in 
a community. In such cases the Council acted 
with determination and vigor. Those who 
they thought were led into disaffection through 
ignorance they imdertook to instruct in ''their 
duty to Almighty God/' and to ''the United 
States of America.'' But to those "who had been 
nursed up in the very bosom of the country," 
and yet "by their pretended neutrality declare 
themselves enemies to the American Union," 
the Council offered but one course, — the 
pledge either of their property or their persons 
for their good behavior. On July 4, 1776, they 
directed the coimty committees to require imder 
oath from all suspected persons inventories of 
their estates, and ordered the commanding 
officers of the militia to arrest all who refused 
and bring them before the Coimcil for trial. 
This order going forth simultaneously with the 
news of Clinton's defeat at Charleston, carried 
dismay into the ranks of the Loyalists. "This 
glorious news [Clinton's defeat], with the resolve 
of Coimcil against the Tories," wrote James 



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The Independent Government 169 

Davis, the public printer, "has caused a very 
great commotion among them. They are flock- 
ing in to sign the test and association/'* By 
these vigorous measures the Council dealt 
Toryism in North Carolina a serious blow, and 
saved the province during the siunmer of 1776 
from the horrors of civil war. It must of course 
be confessed that these measures, though taken 
in the name of liberty, smacked themselves of 
tyranny; their justification lies in the fact that 
they were in behalf of peace and the rights of 
mankind. 

On July 22d, while the Council were in session 
at Halifax, came the welcomed news that the 
Continental Congress had adopted a Declaration 
of Independence. The Council received the 
news with great joy. No longer rebellious 
subjects in arms against their sovereign, they 
were now the leaders of a free people in their 
struggle for constitutional self-governn ent. The 
Council, therefore, immediately resolved that 
by the Declaration of Independence the people 
"were absolved from all allegiance to the British 
Crown," and therefore "the test as directed to 
be subscribed by the Congress at Halifax [was] 
improper and nugatory." The first clause of 
this test — "We the subscribers professing our 
allegiance to the king, and acknowledging the 
constitutional executive power of government" — 
was accordingly stricken out, and the amended 
1 Col. Rec., X, eee. 



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170 Cornelius Harnett 

test, which contained no allusion to the king, 
was signed. The first person in North Carolina 
formally and irrevocably to abjure allegiance to 
the British Crown was Cornelius Harnett, 
whose name headed the list of the councilors 
who subscribed this new test. ^ 

At Halifax the people of North Carolina gave 
the first official utterance in favor of a national 
declaration of independence. Cornelius Harnett 
was their mouthpiece. At Halifax the Declara- 
tion of Independence was first officially pro- 
claimed to the people of North Carolina. Again, 
Cornelius Harnett was their mouthpiece. One 
incident was the logical outcome of the other, 
and the two together enriched our annals with 
a dramatic story. The first entry in the Coun- 
cil's journal for July 22, is a resolution requiring 
the committees throughout the State upon 
receiving the Declaration of Independence to 
"cause the same to be proclaimed in the most 
public manner in order that the good people of 
this colony may be fully informed thereof."^ 
The Council set the example, and set apart 
Thursday, August 1, "for proclaiming the said 
Declaration at the court-house in the town of 
Halifax; the freeholders and inhabitants of the 
county of Halifax are requested to give their 
attendance at the time and place aforesaid.*'* 

1 Col. Rec, X. 684. 
» Col. Rec, X, 682. 
» Col. Rec., X, 688. 



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The Independent Government 171 

The people were profoundly interested. On the 
first day of August an "immense concourse of 
people" gathered in the coimty town to hear 
the official proclamation of their independence. 
"It is needless to say that * * * no question 
was raised as to who should read the great docu- 
ment. There was one man and only one whose 
name in every hamlet in North Carolina stood as 
the supreme embodiment of independence. 
Hardly four months had passed since he had 
read his own immortal declaration, and the 
declaration which he was now to read was but 
the enactment by a Continental Congress of 
what he had proposed to a Provincial Congress."' 
It is true that in substance the two documents 
were pretty much the same, but how different 
the circumstances imder which Cornelius Harnett 
proclaimed them! On April 12th, he was a 
pioneer breaking the way with "the colonies from 
New England to Virginia in solid array" against 
him; on August 1st, he proclaimed the utterance 
of a united continent. The ceremony was simple 
enough. At noon the militia proudly paraded in 
such imif orms as they could boast, and with beat- 
ing dnmis and flying flags escorted the Coun- 
cil to the court-house. The crowd cheered heartily 
as President Harnett ascended the platform. 
When the cheers had died away he arose and 
midst a profound silence read to the people the 
"Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United 



1 Smith : U. N. C Mag., May, 1907, 393. 



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172 Cornelius Harnett 

States of America." As he closed with the 
ringing words pledging to the support of that 
Declaration their lives, their fortunes, and their 
sacred honor, the people with shouts of joy gave 
popular ratification to the solemn pledge their 
representatives had made for them. In the 
exuberance of their enthusiasm the soldiers 
seized President Harnett and, forgetful of his 
staid dignity, bore him on their shoulders 
through the crowded street, applauding him 
as their champion and swearing allegiance to 
American Independence.^ 

Since the State was now independent it was 
advisable that a permanent form of government 
should displace the provisional government 
as soon as possible. Accordingly on the 9th of 
August, the Coimcil of Safety resolved "that it 
be recommended to the good people of this 
now independent State of North Carolina to pay 
the greatest attention to the election to be held 
on the 16th day of October next, of delegates to 
represent them in Congress, and to have partic- 
ularly in view this important consideration: 
that it will be the business of the delegates then 
chosen not only to make laws for the good govern- 
ment of, but also to form a Constitution for this 
State, that this last, as it is the corner-stone 
of all law, so it ought to be fixed and permanent, 
and that according as it is w6ll or ill ordered, 

1 Jones : Defense of North Carolina, 268—269. 



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The Independent Government 173 

it must tend in the first degree to promote the 
happiness or the misery of the State." ' 

A campaign famous for its violence followed. 
Democracy exulting in a freedom too newly 
acquired for it to have learned the virtue of 
self-restraint, struck blindly and fiercely to right 
and left and inflicted upon some of the sturdiest 
champions of constitutional government wounds 
that time itself could never heal. Among those 
^-^ho fell before this onslaught was Samuel John- 
ston who had so long tempered the proceedings 
of the Congress with his wise conservatism. His 
seat was filled by some worthy of whom history 
takes no account. However he still exercised 
a powerful influence in the deliberations of the 
Convention, for some of his warmest friends and 
supporters won seats in that body. One of 
these was William Hooper who was returned 
from Wilmington. Cornelius Harnett was so 
anxious that Hooper should be in the Convention 
that he relinquished his hold on that borough 
in Hooper's favor, and himself stood for election 
in Brunswick county. Brimswick returned hin 
second in her delegation, immediately after 
Maurice Moore, her own favorite son. The 
Convention met at Halifax November 12th. 
Richard Caswell was elected president. Harnett 
was delayed in reaching Halifax, and did not 
arrive until two days after the organization of 
the Convention. ^ 



1 Col. Rec., X. 696. 

« The proceedings are printed In Col. Rec., X, 9ia— 1003. 



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174 Cornelius Harnett 

Immediately after organizing, the Convention 
appointed a committee to frame ''a Bill of 
Rights and form of a Constitution for the govern- 
ment of this State." ^ Harnett was a member 
of this committee. The debates on the Consti- 
tution have not been preserved and contemporary 
documents bearing on the subject are few and 
meager. But little, therefore, is known of the 
contributions made to it by individuals, and 
that little is chiefly a matter of tradition rather 
than of record. Tradition, supported by an 
occasional contemporary record, attributes to 
Harnett a large share in the shaping of the 
Constitution. His contributions present him 
in the characteristic role of opposing religious 
and intellectual bigotry, and advocating a broader 
political freedom. He threw himself vigorously 
against the efforts of Samuel Johnston and his 
immediate followers to secure the establishment 
of the Church of England as part of the new 
State government. Tradition ascribes to him 
the authorship and adoption of the thirty-ninth 
article which declared "that there shall be no 
establishment of any one reUgious church or 
denomination in this State in preference to any 
other, but all persons shall be at liberty to 
exercise their own mode of worship." In keeping 
with this spirit was his attitude toward the 
famous thirty-second article. As originally 

1 The Bill of Rights and Constitution are printed in Col. Rec., X, 
1003—1013. 



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The Independent Govebnment 175 

drawn by Thomas Jones this article declared 
any person incapable of holding any oflS^ce of 
trust or profit in the State who denied ''the 
truth of the Protestant Episcopal Church or 
religion." Harnett led the fight against this 
clause, but prejudice against the Roman Catholic 
Church was so strong that he could do no more 
than secure the rejection of the words "Episcopal 
Church." * More than half a century passed 
before religious toleration in the State reached 
the point where the word "Protestant" was 
discarded for the broader term "Christian," and 
a still longer period, before Harnett's views pre- 
vailed and the Constitution was purged altogether 
of religious bigotry. In 1776 such views were 
regarded as so extremely liberal that strict 
sectarians among his contemporaries thought 
of Harnett as little better than an infidel. 

Perhaps the most diflS^cult task connected with 
the formation of the Constitution was to define 
the powers of the governor. Under the royal 
government neither the people nor the Assembly 
exercised any constitutional control over the 
governor. They had no voice in his appoint- 
ment; they held no restraints over his conduct; 
they had no means of removing him if he proved 
unfit. His authority was neither fixed nor 
definite. He acted under instructions from the 



1 MS. letter of Jo. Seawell Jones to William Gaston, April 7, 1834. 
His information, he declares, was " founded upon a somewhat inti- 
mate acquaintance with the private papers of those who formed the 
Constitution of North Carolina." Also McRee's article on Cornelius 
Harnett in the Raleigh Register, August 30, 1844. 



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176 CoBNELius Habnett 

Crown, whose representative he was, and these 
instructions he could not make public except 
by special permission. As the personal repre- 
sentative of the Crown he was apt to entertain 
extravagant ideas of his prerogatives and to aim 
at the utmost extension of his authority. The 
Assembly struggled hard to hedge him about 
with all sorts of restrictions, and the result was 
a perpetual conflict between the executive and 
legislative branches of the government with 
every advantage in favor of the former. In 
consequence of this system the people felt ham- 
pered in the only branch of the government in 
which they had a direct share, and chafed impa- 
tiently under the restriction. Accordingly when 
they came, under the leadership of Cornelius 
Harnett, to define the powers of their chief 
executive in the new State government, they 
were in a decidedly reactionary frame of mind. 
"What powers, sir," inquired one of Hooper's 
constituents, "were conferred on the governor?" 
"Power," replied Hooper, "to sign a receipt 
for his salary." In truth the legislative branch 
now had the upper hand and the pendulum 
swimg to the other extreme. Not only was the 
governor shorn of most of his most important 
powers; with every power conferred on him the 
Constitution coupled a restriction. He could 
take no important step without the advice and 
consent of the Coimcil of State, and in the 



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The Independent Government 177 

selection of the councilors he had no voice. 
But the Council exercised a restraining authority- 
only; to the governor belonged the right of 
initiative and this fact, coupled with the moral 
influence of the oflS^ce, gave the incumbent 
opportunity for great service and usefulness to 
the State. Nevertheless, an active, aggressive 
and resourceful executive was apt to become 
restive imder the restraints. Governor Caswell, 
for instance, when urged by Cornelius Harnett 
to pursue a more aggressive policy in the prose- 
cution of the war, retorted that his hands were 
tied, and that no man was so much responsible 
for it as Cornelius Harnett himself. Harnett 
had urged that "spirited measures" be adopted 
to fill up the State's regiments for the spring 
campaign of 1778. "My good friend, Mr. 
Harnett,'' replied Caswell, in a letter addressed 
to Penn and Harnett, "knows that by the Con- 
stitution of this State, nothing can be done by 
the executive power of itself towards this most 
desirable purpose and that the General Assembly 
is not to meet until the month of April. Of 
course ways and means can not be fallen on to 
accomplish what he hopes in time to render 
that service to the common cause he and I both 
wish, and I think if there is any blame to be 
fixed on those \ ho formed the Constitution a 
very considerable part he ought to take to him- 

12 



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178 Cornelius Harnett 

self for cramping so much the powers of the 
executive." * 

The Constitution directed that the Assembly 
at its first session after each annual election 
should elect a governor, and other oflS^cials, 
and seven councilors of State. In order to 
bridge the gap between the adjournment of the 
Congress and the meeting of the first Assembly, 
a temporary provision was made by the adoption 
of an ordinance appointing Richard Caswell 
governor; James Glasgow secretary of State; 
Cornelius Harnett, Thomas Person, William 
Dry, William Haywood, Edward Starkey, 
Joseph Leech, and Thomas Eaton councilors 
of State. Three days later, December 23, the 
Congress adjourned.* The new state officials 
met at New Bern in January, and took the 
oath of office on January 16th. Cornelius 
Harnett was elected president of the Council.* 
The first Assembly imder the Constitution met 
at New Bern, April 7th, 1777, and reelected all 
the above officials except Dry and Person, whose 
places were filled with William Cray and William 
Taylor.* But Cornelius Harnett was not to 
serve longer on the Council. On May 1st, 
before his new term began, the Assembly elected 
him a delegate to the Continental Congress. 

1 state Reo., XIII, 31. 

« Col. Rec., X, 1013. 

» State Rec., XI, 363 ; XXII, 900--909. 

4 State Rec., XII, 24—26, 27. 



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X 

IN THE CONTINENTAL CONGRESS 

Harnett was not a candidate for the Continental 
Congress. Had the Assembly been guided by 
his wishes they would not have elected him; 
had he consulted his own good he would not 
have accepted. But the circumstances under 
which he was elected were such that a decent 
regard for his duty as a citizen forbade his 
declining, and to the voice of public duty he had 
not yet learned to turn a deaf ear. When the 
Assembly met it was soon found that the factions 
into which the last two congresses had divided 
had grown into parties. Fundamental differ- 
ences lay at their roots, and never again in the 
history of North Carolina was there to be that 
political harmony and unanimity on public 
matters which had prevailed in the congresses of 
1774 and 1775. Among the prominent leaders 
of the Conservatives was Joseph Hewes, a dele- 
gate in the Continental Congress and a candidate 
for reelection. The Radicals brought out John 
Penn to oppose him. "A warm struggle," wrote 
Abner Nash, "is likely to take place between 
Mr. Penn and Mr. Hewes for a seat in Congress." ^ 
It was indeed a "warm struggle," characterized 
by much hard feeling. Penn won. With him 
were elected Thomas Burke and William Hooper. 

1 State Rec, XI, 453. 



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180 Cornelius Habnbtt 

The result was a bitter pill to Hewes and his 
friends. "Hewes," wrote Johnston, "was sup- 
planted of his seat in Congress by the most 
insidious arts and glaring falsehoods, and Hooper, 
though no competitor appeared to oppose him, 
lost a great number of votes." * Hooper declined 
to accept, and a bad situation was thus made 
worse. Prudence dictated the election of some 
man upon whom both parties could unite and 
whose choice would quiet the ruflled waters. 
Of the prominent politicians at that time there 
were probably but two whose election would 
answer that end. One had just been elected 
governor, and was, therefore, not to be consid- 
ered. The other was Cornelius Harnett. To 
Harnett, accordingly, the Assembly turned, and 
under such circumstances he could do nothing 
but acquiesce in the Assembly's wishes. Elected 
May 1, 1777, he was reelected April 26, 1778, 
and again May 8, 1779.* The Articles of Con- 
federation, ratified by North Carolina April 
24, 1778, forbade any delegate's serving in the 
Continental Congress more than three years 
in any six successive years. Accordingly, at 
the close of his third term in Congress, Harnett 
retired to private life. 

As soon as possible after his election, Harnett 
set out for Philadelphia where he arrived on 

\ MS. letter In the library at " Hayes." Copy in the collections of 
the North Carolina Historical Commission. See also MoRee's Life 
and Correspondence of James Iredell, I, 358. 

« State Rec, XII, 65-67,602—608, 711—718 ; XIII, 764—766, 808-811. 



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In the Continental Congbess 181 

July 18th. He took his seat in Congress on the 
22d. The next three years were the least satis- 
factory years of his long public career. Nomi- 
nally a seat iii Congress was the highest honor 
that a free State could confer on one of its citizens; 
practically it meant loss of political influence and 
preferment. The Continental Congress had lost 
much of its early prestige. Many of the eminent 
leaders who had given it distinction and power 
had retired from its halls to the councils of their 
own states, to foreign courts, and to the battle- 
field. These now offered greater opportimities 
for service and distinction than Congress. Still 
there was important work for Congress to do. 
The Articles of Confederation were to be com- 
pleted. The army was to be maintained. The 
navy was to be created, organized and manned. 
In the name of Congress, American ministers 
were received at foreign courts. By its authority 
they negotiated treaties. Upon its credit they 
borrowed money. But at home the authority 
of Congress was merely nominal. The states 
themselves no longer treated its decrees with 
respect, nor its requisitions with obedience. 
Harnett soon foimd that his opportunity for 
serving the State was extremely narrow and 
cramped. His situation was disagreeable and 
harassing in the extreme, his health was poor, 
and his expenses great. He missed the com- 
fbrts of home, suffered the tortures of gout. 



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182 Cornelius Harnett 

wearied of the sectional jealousies of North and 
South, heard with impatience the quarrels and 
bickerings of Congress, until he was thoroughly- 
worn out. A high sense of public duty alone 
held him to his disagreeable post, for he declared 
that although anxious to be relieved, yet as long 
as his coimtry desired his services he would 
give them to the best of his ability "either with 
or without pay." 

The truth is Harnett entered the Continental 
Congress too late to add to his own fame or to 
render any conspicuous service to his country. 
His career in Congress is of interest even to his 
biographer not so much for what he did as for 
what he wanted done. For this we must search 
not the journals of Congress, but his public 
and private correspondence. A delegate to the 
Continental Congress partook somewhat of the 
nature of a minister from one government to 
another. His chief duty was to keep his own 
government informed on the general situation 
and to suggest measures for the general good. 
None of the letters written by the North Carolina 
delegates are more interesting or suggestive 
than Harnett's. "No true North Carolinian," 
wrote Governor Swain, "will read his public 
letters without increased respect and affection 
for the State and without very high admiration 
of the courage which sustained the writer in the 
darkest days of the Revolution, and the lofty 



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In the Continental Congress 183 

and disinterested patriotism exhibited throughout 
the whole course of his legislative career." ^ 
These letters reveal a clear insight into the 
general situation and are punctured throughout 
with sensible, pointed suggestions. Addressed 
to his own State, his appeals in behalf of the 
common cause are both forcible and eloquent. 
The poUcies that Harnett recommended were 
the ones so plainly marked out by the demands 
of the situation that it is astonishing to find they 
were not followed. He urged the State to keep 
her continental regiments well filled that Wash- 
ington might find himself always in command of 
''a formidable army in the field well provided 
and well equipped." ^^We are daily entertained," 
he wrote, ''by members of Congress with para- 
graphs of letters giving an account of the surpris- 
ing exertions of their constituents. I beg that 
you will inform me what has been done by our 
General Assembly in this way. We have often 
been before them; I hope we shall never be behind 
them." ^ He besought Burke to inform him "of 
the temper you find our Assembly in. Are they 
inclined to pursue spirited measures? For God's 
sake, fill up your battalions, lay taxes, put a 
stop to the sordid and avaricious spirit which 
[has] affected all ranks and conditions of men."^ 
He begged the State to fortify her seacoast. 

1 U. N. C. Mag., X, 337. 
« state Rec., XI, 694. 
» State Rec., XI, 606. 



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184 Cornelius Harnett 

But he was almost alone in understanding the 
advantage which England's navy gave her 
over a people without naval power and with a 
long defenseless coast. ''God send our Assembly 
may have wisdom enough to fortify their sea- 
ports," he exclaimed. "I am distressed beyond 
measure," he wrote to Governor Caswell, "to 
find our seacoast so much neglected." Again 
and again he recurred to the subject, but all 
to no purpose. The Assembly did nothing. 
''Mr. Maclaine writes me," he wrote, "he had 
hopes of getting our river [Cape Fear] fortified, 
but I have despaired of it long ago; if the Assem- 
bly should agree to it, I shall believe that miracles 
have not yet ceased." * But miracles had ceased 
so far as the Assembly gave any evidence to the 
contrary. The people's representatives saved 
their constituents' money, but they paid the 
price in blood and suffering. Harnett urged 
that taxes be levied to keep up the credit of the 
continental and provincial currency. In a letter 
to Burke, suggesting matters for the considera- 
tion of the Assembly, he declared: "That of 
taxation is essential above all. The credit of 
our continental currency depends upon it." 
"This measure of taxation," he wrote to the gov- 
ernor, "unless entered into with spirit by the 
legislatures of the several states must end in the 
ruin of the prodigious quantity of paper money 
now in circulation." He earnestly desired to 

1 State Reo., XI. 590, 825 ; XIII, 21—22, 361. 



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In the Continental Congbess 185 

put a stop to the Philadelphia printing presses 
which were turning out millions of depreciated 
bills of credit. "Congress," he wrote, ''seem 
determined to put a stop to the further emissions 
of money. I wish they may be able to accom- 
plish this desirable end." ^ But this could not 
be done because Congress had no power to levy 
taxes and the states would not exercise their 
taxing power to supply the continental treasury. 
Harnett denounced in no uncertain terms the 
greed of those who took advantage of the unfor- 
tunate condition of their country to reap wealth 
for themselves. ''The villainous practice of 
raising the price of all the necessaries and con- 
veniences of life," he declared, "is spreading all 
over the continent. * * * America has more 
to apprehend from the consequences of this 
avaricious spirit than from two such armies as 
General Howe's." ^ He warned the people against 
the folly of expecting foreign powers to win 
their independence for them and declared that 
they must depend upon their own valor and 
patriotism. "The independence of America is, 
we think, secured by Spain's entering into the 
war, and nothing remains for us to do but to 
keep a good army in the field and support the 
public credit," but he instantly added, "this 
depends solely upon the patriotic exertions of 
the several states." "All our foreign intelligence," 

1 State Hec., XI, 604, 819, 606 ; XIV, 348. 
« State Reo.. XI, 749, 762, 780. 786, 820. 



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186 Cornelius Harnett 

he declared at another time, ''mdicates that 
Europe will soon be in a flame. Let us not 
depend upon this. If we have virtue, we cer- 
tainly have power to work out our own salvation, 
I hope without fear or trembling." * He saw 
the necessity for a stronger union between the 
states, and was always ready to support any 
member of the Confederacy against the common 
enemy. Urging his own State to make every 
exertion to aid Georgia and South Carolina, 
he declared: "I am one of those old politicians 
who had much rather see my neighbor's house 
on fire than my own, but at the same time would 
lend every assistance in my power to quench 
the flame." ' 

This sentence is a succinct statement of the 
policy which he pursued toward the Articles of 
Confederation. His votes on the Articles reveal 
in him a thoroughgoing state rights man, yet 
he believed thoroughly in an effective and effi- 
cient union of the states. "Every member of 
Congress," he declared, "seems to wish for a Con- 
federacy except my good friend Burke, who laughs 
at it as a chimerical project; it does not strike 
me in that point of view. I think that unless 
the states confederate a door will be left open 
for continental contention and bloodshed, and 
that very soon after we are at peace with Europe."* 

1 state Rec., XI, 696 ; XIII, 21, 304 ; XIV, 206. 

2 State Rec., XIII, 224, 306 ; XIV, 190, 205. 
8 StateRec., XIII, 386. 



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In the Continental Congress 187 

But the union that he advocated was not to be 
a Nation of individuals, but a Confederacy 
of sovereign states. He opposed every effort of 
the larger states to secure population as the 
basis of representation in Congress, and sup- 
ported the clause that gave to each State but 
a single vote. He stood with the state rights 
party in reserving to the states the power of 
taxation and the power of regulating commerce. 
He favored the clause that forbade Congress 
to make any treaty with a foreign power which 
should interfere with the right of any State to 
levy such duties as were imposed upon its own 
citizens. In apportioning the quota to be paid 
by each State into the Continental treasury, 
he favored the assessment of all property in 
general, in preference to the poll or the assessed 
value of real estate. He voted against the pro- 
posal to erect into a national domain the vast 
territory lying between the Alleghanies and 
the Mississippi to which Virginia, North Caro- 
lina and other states laid claim. ^ These votes 
illustrate his position, and it is not necessary 
to pursue the subject in further detail. It is not 
probable that Harnett contributed much, or 
anything to the final shaping of the Articles. 
They were already too far advanced when he 
entered Congress, and were adopted shortly 
after he took his seat. The final vote was 



1 Ford : Journals of the Continental Congre£ia ; State Hec, XI, 648, 
696, 814. 



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188 Cornelius Harnett 

taken on November 15th. Two days before, 
Harnett wrote to Burke: 'The child Congress 
has been big with these two years past is at last 
brought forth — Confederation. I fear it will 
by several legislatures be thought a little de- 
formed; you will think it a monster. I wish, 
however, some kind of confederation would take 
place. Some carry their idea of this matter 
so far as to believe our affairs must be ruined 
without it. Be this as it may, it will in a few 
days be sent to the legislatures of the several 
states." * He regarded it as "the most diflScult 
piece of business that ever was undertaken 
by any public body," and thought it "the best 
confederacy that could be formed especially 
when we consider the number of states, their 
different interests, [and] customs."' Harnett 
was very solicitous as to the fate of the Articles 
in North Carolina, but apparently without 
cause. They were laid before the Legislature 
April 24th, and were promptly ratified. ^ Gov- 
ernor Caswell's letter enclosing a copy of the 
Legislature's resolution was laid before the 
Continental Congress May 18th,* but it was not 
until July 21st that John Penn signed the Con- 
federation in behalf of North Carolina. Harnett 
who had been on a visit to North Carolina 



1 state Rec., XI^ 677. 

• State Rec, XI. 814. 

• State Rec., XII, 708, 717. 

4 Ford : JournaLs of the Continental Congress. 



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In the Continental Congress 189 

returned to Congress August 10th, and later 
attached his signature. 

Harnett was not politically ambitious. Public 
office as such made no appeal to him. He did 
not need its emoluments. He cared little for 
its distinctions. Indeed, the offices wHch he 
held brought more of sacrifice than of gain, more 
of drudgery than of glory. Desire to serve his 
coimtry regardless of cost to himself alone held 
him to the duties and burdens of his "very 
disagreeable and troublesome office." He had 
been in Philadelphia but a short time when he 
was struck with amazement "at the most extrav- 
agant prices" at which all kinds of articles 
were selling and discovered that his salary of 
$1,800 was not sufficient to meet his expenses.^ 
He begged his friend Burke not to bring his 
wife to York, Pa., where Congress was sitting. 
"I should be very sorry," he wrote, "to see my 
countrywoman in distress, which be assured, 
must be the case if you bring her here. No, 
my friend, let her remain at your own peaceful 
mansion in expectation of better times. * * * 
I never Uved in so wretched a manner in my life. 
I shall be under the necessity of procuring in 
advance from the treasury at least $1000 over 
and above my allowance from the State which 
is very handsome. I shall be content if this 
will bring me home with a single dollar in my 
pocket. Mention not this; if you do I am sure 

1 State Rec. XI, 740. 



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190 Cornelius Harnett 

you will not be believed, but it is as true as the 
gospel. God only knows what this country 
will come to at last." ^ At another time he 
wrote: "I shall return [to North Carolina] 
indebted to my country at least £6000, [for 
advances from the treasury over and above 
his salary], and you very well know how we live. 
Do not mention this complaint to any person. 
I am content to sit down with this loss and much 
more if my country requires it." ^ But when he 
found that these sacrifices were required without 
bringing adequate compensation in the way of 
service to the State, the burden of his position 
became intolerable. The honor staled. The 
incapacity of Congress wearied and disgusted 
him. "Congress," he wrote, "seems to go on 
in the old way, sometimes disputing upon 
trifles and neglecting the greater matters of the 
law," "doing more in three hours at one time 
than they do at another in three days." ^ To 
his business partner at Wilmington, William 
Wilkinson, he declared: "If I once more can 
return to my family all the devils in hell shall not 
separate us. The honor of being once a member 
of Congress is sufficient for me; I acknowledge 
it is the highest honor a free State can bestow on 
one of its members. I shall be careful to ask for 
nothing more, but will sit down under my own 
vine and my own fig tree (for I have them both) 

1 State Rec., XI, 697. 

* State Reo.. XIV, 348. 

« State Rec., XIII, 470. 483. 



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In the Continental Congress 191 

at Poplar Grove where none shall make me 
afraid except the boats of the British cruisers."^ 
In a letter to Governor Caswell he declared that 
he would return to his home in April, 1778, 
after being absent from his family for ten months, 
and that he had "neither expectation nor wish 
to return again, as I am convinced there will be 
many candidates for the honorable employment; 
I am not one, though I shall think it my duty 
to serve my country to the best of my poor 
abilities, either with or without pay." ^ 

What "all the devils in hell" could not do, 
Harnett's patriotism did. In April, 1778, he 
visited his family and at the desire of the Assem- 
bly returned to Congress in August. January 
of 1779 brought another opportunity to return 
to North Carolina. "After one of the most 
terrible journeys that a man 55 years old ever 
took," he declared, in the course of which he 
"rode through frost and snow in some places 
three feet deep," he reached Halifax January 
22, where he found the Assembly in session.^ 
The next day the Senate proposed that a joint 
committee of the two houses "be appointed for 
the purpose of preparing the thanks of this State 
to the Honorable Cornelius Harnett, Esquire, 
one of the delegates for this State in the Conti- 
nental Congress, for his faithful and important 
services rendered this State in the execution of 

1 State Rec., XI, 827. 
« State Reo.. XIII, 385. 
8 State Rec.. XIV, 254. 



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192 Cornelius Harnett 

that office." ^ The House of Commons at once 
concurred, but added the names of the other 
delegates. Accordingly the speaker returned 
the thanks of the State in suitable words, to 
which Harnett and John Williams responded 
in behalf of the delegates.^ On May 8th the 
Assembly for the third time elected Harnett to 
the Continental Congress, and on the 26th of 
July, sinking all personal considerations, he 
returned to his duties. Under the Articles of 
Confederation he could not succeed himself, 
and as the year drew to its close and the prospects 
of returning to the comforts of home drew near, 
something of his old spirits revived and found 
reflection in his letters. In February, 1780, 
he made his last journey from Philadelphia 
to Wilmington. From his quiet home at "Poplar 
Grove near Wilmington," on Washington's birth- 
day, he wrote to Burke then at Philadelphia: 
"After one of the most fatiguing and most 
disagreeable journeys that ever [an] old fellow 
took, I at last arrived at my little hovel and 
had the happiness to find my family in good 
health." * "I am very glad,'' his friend replied, 
"that you have surmounted the difiiculties of 
a journey which I have often thought of with 
very great and severe apprehensions. Your 
spirits, I perceive, are good, and your health, 
I hope will always continue as well as you can 
wish it." ^ 

1 state Reo., XIII. 552. 663, 671-73. 
> State Rec., XV, 341. 
8 State Reo., XV, 367. 



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XI 
THE LAST YEAR 

In his letters Harnett calls himself an old 
man. "I am too old to be sent here," he declared. 
*'I am now not many years from sixty."* In 
reality, he was then only fifty-five, and when he 
retired from Congress he was but in his fifty- 
seventh year. We should not now call him an 
old man. But as Nicolay and Hay, in their 
"Abraham Lincoln," say: "In the latter half 
of the last century [the 18th] and the first half 
of this [the 19th], men were called old whom we 
should regard as in the prime of life." After 
citing illustrations of the statement, they con- 
tinue: "The sober fact is that the life was a hard 
one, with few rational pleasures, few wholesome 
appliances. The strong ones lived, and some 
even attained great length of years; but to the 
many age came early and was full of infirmity 
and pain." Of the twenty-one delegates sent 
by North Carolina to the Continental Congress, 
the average age at death was fifty-nine years. 
One-third died before reaching fifty; more than 
half were under sixty; and but six reached three 
score and ten. The truth is, many a civilian, 
who is popularly supposed to have reposed in 

1 State Reo., XIII, 305. 

13 



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194 CORNELTCTS HaRNETT 

some safe and easy political berth, through the 
sacrifices, hardships, and the strain of harassing 
responsibilities, laid down his life in the cause 
of his country as literally as the soldier who fell 
on the field of battle. Certainly this is true of 
Cornelius Harnett. Deprived of the comforts 
of home, burdened with the responsibiUties 
of a disagreeable ofiice, and threatened with 
financial ruin, his indomitable spirit would still 
have sustained him imder it all had not disease 
laid its heavy hand upon him. Much of his 
most arduous work was done in company with 
his "old companion," the gout, and many a 
lengthy official commimication was written when 
it gave him "great pain to hold a pen" in his 
hand. As a result old sge came to him early 
in life, and when he retired from Congress he 
was a physical wreck, broken in body and pre- 
maturely old. 

Cornelius Harnett spent the last year of his 
life midst the gloom of repeated disaster. The 
summer of 1780 was the gloomiest period of the 
war in the South. In rapid succession Charleston 
fell, Buford's Virginians were cut to pieces at 
Waxhaws, and the enemy seized Augusta, 
Ninety-six, Camden, and other strategic points 
of the interior. The fall of Charleston carried 
with it the whole of Lincoln's army, including 
North Carolina's continental line and a thousand 
of her militia. After the disaster at Waxhaws, 



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The Last Yeak 195 

"not a vestige of an American army was left 
in all South Carolina/' Georgia and South 
Carolina were quickly overrun and North Caro- 
lina lay open to invasion without an organized 
force to protect her soil or defend her honor. 
The government strained every nerve, and 
before Comwallis was ready to advance had a 
respectable force in the field. Then Gates came, 
crowned with the laurels of Saratoga, and led 
his army to the worst defeat recorded in American 
annals. After Camden Comwallis marched with 
ease to Charlotte. King's Mountain and Cow- 
pens brought rays of light in the general gloom, 
but they were immediately followed by Greene's 
retreat. Through the perspective of a hundred 
and thirty years, we now see this great retreat 
in its true light, but the patriots of 1780 saw 
only Greene's ragged troops flying before the 
pursuing foe, and it appeared to them but the 
climax of a disastrous year. 

The opening of the year 1781 brought the war 
to Harnett's own door. In January, Major 
James H. Craige, with an insignificant force 
of British regulars, sailed up the Cape Fear and 
occupied Wilmington without opposition. Craige 
was a bold and aggressive soldier. His appear- 
ance on the Cape Fear animated the spirits 
of the Tories and dashed the hopes of the Whigs. 
For four years the latter had slept in fancied 
security, heedless of Harnett's warnings, as if 



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196 CoRNSUUs Harnett 

they expected the victories of 1776 to be a perpet- 
ual safeguard against attack. Craige gave them a 
rude awakening, and forced their leaders to aban- 
don their homes and to seek refuge in obscure re- 
treats in the country. But flight could not save 
them from the restless energy and bold activity of 
the British troopers, who made the life of every 
prominent Whig in eastern Carolina insecure. 

Cornelius Harnett fell an early victim to their 
£eal. Proscribed by Governor Martin and out- 
lawed by Su: Henry CUnton, he was the most 
shining mark upon which Craige could display 
his zeal in his master's cause. His first expe- 
dition after occupying Wilmington was organized 
for the capture of Harnett. Warned of his 
danger, Harnett attempted flight. He carried 
with him a considerable smn of public money 
with which he had been entrusted for the pur- 
chase of military suppUes and clothing, and this 
he succeeded in conveying to a place of safety. 
But he himself, suddenly seized with a paroxysm 
of the gout, was compelled to seek relief at the 
home of a friend, Colonel James Spicer, in Ons- 
low county, about thirty miles from Wilmington, 
where he was captured. Tortured with pain 
and utterly helpless, his hands and feet tightly 
bound, he was strapped across the back of a 
trooper's horse, and thus taken into Wilmington. 
The sight made a profound impression on those 
who beheld it. An interested spectator was 



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The Last Year 197 

Armand John DeRosset, a boy of fourteen years, 
afterwards a well-known physician. His grand- 
daughter refers to the incident in these words :^ 
''One horrible recollection that remained with 
grandpa as long as he lived, was the sight of 
Cornelius Harnett (the idolized patriot of the 
Cape Fear), 'brought through the town, thrown 
across a horse like a sack of meal,' by a squad 
of Craige's marauders. * * * Driven before 
them, he had fallen in his tracks from exhaustion 
and in an unconscious state, was thus inhumanly 
treated." At Wilmington, by Craige's orders, 
he was thrown into a roofless blockhouse where 
he was exposed to all the inclemencies of the 
winter season. His strength gave way rapidly 
and it soon became evident that his end was 
near. Then Whigs and Tories alike prayed 
Craige for a relaxation of his severity, and the 
British commander yielded so far as to grant his 
dying prisoner a parole vrfthin the limits of the 
town. 

But this clemency came too late. On April 
28th, 1781, with his own hand, Harnett wrote 
his will in these words: "I give, devise and 
bequeath to my dear, beloved vrife Mary, all 
my estate, real, personal, and mixed, of what 
nature or kind soever, to her, her heirs and 
assigns forever;" to which he added this codicil: 
"I, Cornelius Harnett, having executed the 
within written will, think it not improper to 

1 Catherine DeRosset Meares : Annals of the DeRosset Family, 50. 

14 



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198 Cornelius Harnett 

add that, as I have ever considered expensive 
funerals as ostentatious folly it is my earnest 
request (and from my present circumstances 
now doubly necessary) that I may be buried 
with the utmost frugality."* His last moments 
are thus described by Hooper: "Aware that his 
disease must terminate fatally, he declined the 
advice of his physicians, but thankfully received 
their kind and friendly attentions. In the last 
stage of pain and suffering he had, as might 
be expected, his moments of impatience and 
asperity. The placidity of his temper never, 
however, deserted him long; and he enjoyed a 
serenity of mind to the last hour of his existence. 
Some of his friends endeavored to present to his 
mind the consolations of revealed religion and 
to enforce on it the necessity of repentance; 
but he had so entrenched himself in the positions 
of infidelity that their approaches were too 
easily resisted at that awful period. He died in 
the tenets in which he had lived, and dictated 
a short time before his expiration the simple 
epitaph which appears above his grave," * — ^the 
following couplet from Pope's Essay on Man: 

" Slave to no sect, he took no private road, 
But looked through Nature up to Nature's God." 

Death came to him April 28th, 1781, in the 
fifty-eighth year of his Ufe. His body lies buried 

1 The original la preserved In the Court-house of New Hanover 
county. 

« U. N. C. Mag., IX, 334—336. 



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The Last Year 199 

in the northeast comer of St. James' church- 
yard in the city of Wihnington. A rude stone, 
on which his epitaph is rudely and incorrectly 
carved/ alone marks his final resting place; 
but near by stands a granite shaft erected to his 
memory by the grateful descendants of those 
for whom he gave the last full measure of devo- 
tion.* 

Hooper's statement, above quoted, classing 
Harnett as an atheist, should not be passed 
without comment. Hooper merely repeats a 
tradition that sprang up a few years after Har- 
nett's death and was accepted without question 
by historians imtil the recent publication of 
Harnett's letters and other papers. No one can 
read these documents and accept Hooper's 
statement as a fact. It is true that Harnett 
lived in an age of speculation, — ^the age of 
Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas 
Jefferson. Perhaps his fondness for speculative 
philosophy at times led him to discourse in a 
vein not altogether in harmony with the orthodox 
religious views of those among whom he lived. 
As Dr. Smith says: "Utterly unwarranted infer- 
ences have been drawn from the couplet which 
Harnett asked to be placed on his tomb." ^ In this 
connection, it is interesting to note that at the 
public sale of Governor Josiah Martin's property, 

1 The date of his death la given as April 20, 1781. 
> Erected by the North Carolina Society of the Colonial Dames of 
America, in 1907. 

• U. N. C. Mag., May, 1907, note, 402. 



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200 Cornelius Harnett 

sold by order of Congress at New Bern, February 
6, 1777, Harnett made one purchase, — a book 
called 'The Religion of Nature." ' But while he 
nowhere gives expression to his religious views, 
he frequently refers to the Deity in words which 
no atheist could use and in a spirit totally 
foreign to atheism. Moreover with the shadow 
of death already darkening his countenance, 
he writes as the opening words of his will: "In 
the sacred name of God — ^Amen." We have 
already observed the part he bore in the wording 
of the Thirty-second Article of the Constitution. 
That Article forbade any person who denied 
the "being of God," or the "Divine authority 
of either the Old or New Testament," to hold 
office in North Carolina. Yet from the day the 
Constitution was signed almost to the day of his 
death, Harnett held office imder that Consti- 
tution and frequently took the oath to support 
it. Harnett was a Mason, and held a position 
of no less dignity than Deputy Grand Master 
of North America, having jurisdiction over the 
entire continent. As Mr. Haywood says, "it 
is needless to tell a Mason" that Harnett was not 
an atheist. 'From time immemorial," he con- 
tinues, "it has been held that no unbeliever is 
a fit person to be initiated into the mysteries of 
the Order. It was so in the Dark Ages; in 1722 
it was reiterated in the Charges of a Freemason, 
and it is still a law of the Order. Whether a 



1 state Rec, XXII. 886. 



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The Last Year 201 

slave to no sect, a slave to all sects, a Christian, 
Unitarian, Jew, or Mohammedan, would not be 
called into question, provided Harnett believed 
in God — ^Nature's God, the God of all things 
in heaven above, in the earth beneath, and the 
water xmder the earth — ^but, whatever may have 
been his personal views in a doctrinal way on the 
subject of religion, belief in God he surely pro- 
fessed when he became a Masofi." ' Finally, 
no atheist could have borne the relation to the 
Church that Harnett bore. He was a vestryman 
of St. James' Parish, Wilmington, and as such 
was probably a communicant. At any rate, he 
was no atheist, and his refusal of the cup on his 
deathbed must have arisen from some other 
cause than infidelity. 

The glimpses which Harnett's letters give 
us into his domestic affairs reveal a happy home 
life. His wife, Mary Grainger, daughter of 
Joshua Grainger, Jr., was a member of a large 
family, long and prominently connected with 
the history of the Cape Fear.* They had no 
issue. Harnett's residence at Maynard, after- 
wards called Hilton, just outside the town of 
Wilmington, was standing until within recent 
years. The house, surrounded by a grove of 
splendid oaks and luxuriant cedars, stood at 
the end of a "magnificent avenue of live oaks," 
on an eminence of the east bank of the Cape 

^ The Beginnings of Freemasonry in North Carolina and Tennessee. 
61—68. 

« MS. notes of A. M. WaddeU and W. B. McKoy. 



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202 Cornelius Harnett 

Fear just above Wilmington, and commanded 
a fine view of the river. It was a brick structure 
described as being "of a type frequently used in 
colonial times, distinguished by the gambrel 
roof. Its interior woodwork was of red cedar, 
and of elaborate and ornate finish. The window 
and door frames were very broad, also of cedar. 
* * * Including the basement it contained 
twelve rooms."* Griffith J. McRee, writing 
in 1846, says: * "The house was built by Corne- 
lius Harnett; in front is a stDue with his name 
and date of the erection. * * * jf g^ch 
houses as Hilton and Hymeham were built 
at a very early period the fact proves a degree 
of taste, refinement and opulence on the part 
of the builders which has not been equaled since 
their day. For these with one or two others 
of a similar style are still much the best mansions 
on the river out of the town." 

A portrait of Harnett as he appeared in his 
home has been drawn for us by the pen of Archi- 
bald Maclaine Hooper. Hooper's grandfather, 
Archibald Maclaine, and his father, George 
Hooper, brother of William Hooper, were among 
Harnett's intimate friends and his observations 
may be regarded as presenting the views of 
those eminent men as well as his own. Harnett's 
stature, he says, "was about five feet nine. In 

1 Andrew J. Howell In the Charlotte Observer. 

s Unpublished letter to Gov. Swaln, May 11, 1846. in the coUeotions 
of the North Carolina Historical Society at the University of N. C. 
Copy in the collections of the North Carolina Historical Commission. 



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The Last Year 203 

his person he was rather slender than stout. 
His hair was of a light brown, and his e 'es hazel. 
The contour of his face was not striking; nor 
were his features, which were small, remarkable 
for symmetry; but his coimtenance was pleasing, 
and his figure, though not commanding, was 
neither inelegant nor ungraceful. * * * He 
practiced all the duties of a kind and charitable 
and elegant hospitality. * * * Easy in man- 
ner, affable, courteous, with a fine taste for 
letters and a genius for music, he was always an 
interesting, sometimes a fascinating companion. 
He had read extensively for one engaged so much 
in the bustle of the world, and he read with a 
critical eye and inquisitive mind. * * * in 
conversation he was never voluble. The tongue, 
an unruly member in most men, was in him 
nicely regulated by a sound and discriminating 
judgment. He paid, nevertheless, his full quota 
into the common stock, for what was wanting 
in continuity or fullness of expression, was 
supplied by a glance of his eye, the movement of 
his hand, and the impressiveness of his pause. 
Occasionally, too, he would impart animation 
to his discourse by a characteristic smile of such 
peculiar sweetness and benignity, as enlivened 
every mind and cheered every bosom, within 
the sphere of its radiance. He could be wary 
and circumspect, or decided and daring, as 
exigency dictated or emergency required. At 



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204 Cornelius Harnett 

one moment abandoned to the gratification of 
sense, in the next he could recover his self-pos- 
session and resume his dignity. Addicted to 
pleasure, he was always ready to devote himself 
to business, and always prompt in execution. 
An inflexible republican, he was beloved and 
honored by the adherents of monarchy amid the 
fury of a civil war." 

Of ComeUus Harnett's public career but a 
word more need be said. Clearly he must be 
ranked as among American statesmen. Through- 
out his career his spirit was continental, his 
outlook national. Herein, indeed, lies the real 
significance of his services. Approaching his 
career from this point of view, we shall no longer 
think of the revolutionary history of North Caro- 
lina as "an isolated fragment but an organic 
part of a larger whole"; while his contributions 
to that history will appear equally contributions 
to American history. For surely the revolu- 
tionary movement in North Carolina was as 
much a part of the continental movement toward 
urion and nationaUty as the movements in 
Massachusetts and Virginia ; and, therefore, 
the work of Cornelius Harnett in directing that 
movement was as national in its significance as 
was the same work of Samuel Adams in Massa- 
chusetts, or of Patrick Henry in Virginia. Corne- 
lius Harnett's work was always constructive. 
He never pulled down but that he might build 



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The Last Year 205 

up. With a profound faith in popular govern- 
ment, he had in his nature none of the elements 
of the demagogue. He appealed neither to the 
passions nor to the prejudices of mankind. His 
work lay not on the hustings, nor, though a 
debater of ability, in the legislative hall, but 
rather in the council chamber. His chief service 
was executive in its nature. This work was the 
backbone of the Revolution without which the 
eloquence of the orator, the wisdom of the legis- 
lator, and the daring of the soldier would have 
been barren of results. Yet it was a work that 
offered but little opportunity for display, and 
brought but little fame. Its only opportunity 
was for service, its only reward, a broken body 
and a martyr's grave. Lacking the fiery elo- 
quence of Ashe, the learning of Johnston, the 
versatility of Caswell, without the halo which 
surroimds the brows of Hooper, Hewes and 
Penn, as the signers of the Declaration of Inde- 
pendence, Cornelius Harnett was inferior to 
none of them in the services rendered to the 
cause of independence, in his devotion to liberty, 
his faith in mankind, and his love of country, 
in whose cause "he fearlessly dared the dimgeon 
and the scaffold.'' 



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INDEX 



Adams, John, 149-50. 
Adams, Samuel, 79-80, 146. 
Alexander, Heaekiah, 154. 
Anson county committee of safety, 

126. 
Appropriation bills, 27. 
Arms and ammunition, 94-95, 97, 

162-163. 
Articles of Confederation, 18&-89. 
Ashe, John, 22, 31, 32, 43, 45, 75, 81, 

95, 98. 100, 101, 103. 
Ashe, Samuel, 22, 56, 111, 154. 
Assembly, quorum of, 28. 
Attachment clause. See (Foreign 

Attachments.) 
Avery, Waightstlll, 111. 

Bath committee of safety 93. 
"Blackbeard." 10. 
Bloodworth, Timothy, 22. 
Bonnet, Stede, 10-11. 
Boundary line, North and South 

Carolina, 70. 
Boyd, Adam, 22. 
Brunswick, 14, 16-17, 101. 
Burke, Thomas, 142. 152. 179, 186. 

188, 189, 192. 
Burrington, Gov. George, 7, 12. 

Campbell, Farquard, 56. 

Cape Fear, 9; inhabitants of, 13. 20. 

Cai)e Fear Section, 7-13. 

Cape Fear Gazette, the, 31. 

Caswell. Richard, 81, 82, 117. 173. 

177, 178. 
CUnton, Sir Henry, 116, 118, 155, 162. 
Collet, Capt. John, 98, 99. 
Committees of safety, 79-80, 86, 107. 
"Common Sense," 139. 
Coor, James, 111, 154. 
"Conservatives," 152. 
Constitution, the North Carolina, 

152, 172-78. 
Continental Association, 84, 85, 91. 
Continental Congress, 81, 181. 
Continental troops, 105, 155. 
Convention of 1769, 5^-54. 
Cornell, Samuel, 64. 
Comwallis. Lord, 116, 118. 
Council of Safety, 15^54, 160-61. 
Council of State, 178. 
Court-law, the, 70-78. 
Craige^aJ. James H., 195. 
Cray, William, 178. 
Cruizer, the, 100. 



Dartmouth, Lord, 100. 
Declaration of Independence. 169- 

172. 
Declaratory Act, 48, 69. 
DeRosset, Moses John, 22. 
Diligence, the, 32. 
District committees of safety, 108. 
DcH>be, the, 33, 36. 
Dobbs, Gov. Arthur. 26. 
Dunmore, Lord, 114, 115. 
Dry. William, 34, 35, 79, 178. 

Eaton, Thomas, 111, 154, 178. 
Edenton committee of safety, 93 
Edwards, Isaac, 75. 

Foreign attachments, 70-78. 
Fort Johnston, 98, 99, 101. 
French and Indian War. 25. 

General Washington, the, 163. 

Gerry, Elbridge, 148-49. 

Glasgow, James, 178. 

Grainger, Mary, wife of Cornelius 
Harnett, 201. 

Granville county committee of 
safety, 126. 

Harnett, Cornelius, Senior, 17-19. 

Harnett, Cornelius, Age, 193, 194. 
Alderman of Wilmington, 23. 
Assembly, career in, 23, 24, 26, 
42; on committees of, 25, 27-28, 
29, 43, 59, 75, 76, 80; thanked by. 
191-92. Battle of Lexington. 
93; of Moore's Creek Bridge, 
118. Birth, 20. Captured by 
British, 196. Committee of 
correspondence, 80. Commit- 
tees of safety, chairman of, 87- 
88, 91; master-spirit of, 87-89. 
Conference with Quincy, 78-80. 
Constitution of North Caro- 
lina, contributions to, 174-78. 
Continental Association, en- 
forces the, 48, 55, 56. Continen- 
tal Congress, elected to, 180, 
192; sets out for, 180; takes seat 
in, 181; discomforts of situation, 
181. 189; letters written from. 
182; policies advocated, 183; ad- 
vocates larger army, 183; taxa- 
tion, 183-84; opposes depreciated 
paper currency, 185; denoimoes 
greed of merchants, 185; on for- 



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208 



Index 



eisn aid. 185-M: favors aid to 
sister states, 186; favors con- 
federation, 186-89; signs Artl- 
cles of Confederation, 188-89; 
returns to North Carolina, 191- 
92. Council of Safety, elected 
member of, 154; president, 161- 

62. Council of State, elected 
member of, 178; president, 178. 
Death, 198. Declaration of 
Independence, reads at Halifax, 
170-72. Established Church, 
opposes, 174. Financial losses 
189. Foreign Attachments, 
favors, 71, 75, 76. Fort Johnston, 
destruction of, 98, 101. Gov- 
ernor, defines the powers of, 
175-78. In the North, 82. Jus- 
tice of the Peace, 23. Last year, 
194. Leader, 7, 22, 30. 45-47, 71, 
120.158. Marriage, 201. Monu- 
ment to, 199. National spirit, 
164. National statesman, 204- 
205. Personal appearance. 202- 
204. Political offices, not ambi- 
tious for, 189. Political parties, 
153. Prepares for war, 94. Pro- 
scribed by Gov. Martin, 100-101; 
by Sir Henry Clinton, 159. Pro- 
vincial Congress, member of, 
83, 104, 173; on committees of, 
142-43, 152, 156. 174; urses John- 
ston to cidl meeting of, 95, 103. 
Provincial Council, member of, 
111; president, 111-12. Religloua 
faith, 199-201. Religious free- 
dom, advocates, 175. Regula- 
tors, attitude toward, 59, 61-62, 

63, 66-67. Residence, 201-202. 
Resolution of April 12th, author 
of, 143. Revolutionary govern- 
ment, at head of, 157-58. Sons 
of Liberty, chairman of, 55. 56. 
57-^. Stamp Act, leads oppo- 
sition to, 30, 35, 4&-47, 48. Test 
signs, 169-70. "The Samuel 
Adams of North Carolina," 
79. Tryon, Gov., interview 
with, 39-41; offers guard to, 35. 
WiU, 197. Wilmington, flight 
from, 196: identified with inter- 
ests of. 20, 23. 

Harvey, John. 49. 52, 75, 80. 82. 83, 

84, 102. 125. 
Haywood, William. 178. 
Heart of Oak, the, 163. 
Hewes, Joseph, 75, 81. 82, 129. 137, 

146, 151, 179, 180. 
Highlanders, 97, 114. 116. 
HiU. Whitmill. Ill, 154. 
Hill, William, 78. 



Hooper, WiUiam, 22, 71, 75, 79. 81, 82. 

122, 135, 139. 152. 173. 176, 179. 

180. 
Houston, WiUiam. 31. 
Howe, Robert, 22, 71, 75, 79, 80, 95. 

98, 100. 103, 105. 115. 142, 158-59. 

Independence, 119, 120. 130, 139. 

143-45, 14&-46. 
Indians. 11, 114, 162. 
Instructions, royal, 69. 
Intemid improvements, 28. 
Iredell, James, 60, 62. 

JohnaUm^ the, 163. 
"Johnston Act," 62. 
Johnston. Gov. Gabriel, 16. 
Johnston. Samuel, 62, 71, 76, 80, 81, 

84. 95. 98, 102. 104, 105. Ill, 122. 

137-38, 142, 152, 153, 154, 173. 
Johnston county committee of 

safety, 124-25. 
Jones, AUen. 142. 
Jones, Thomas, 111, 143. 154. 155. 

158. 
Jones. Willie. Ill, 154, 158. 

Kinohen, John, 111, 142, 154. 
Kino Fi»her, the, 163. 
King Tammany^ the, 163. 

Lee, Richard Henry, 161. 
Leech, Joseph, 178. 
Letters of Marque, 163. 
Lexington, battle of, 92-94. 
Llght^orse, 155. 
Lillington, Alexander, 22. 
UUy, the. 163. 
Little Tfunna8, the. 163. 
Lobb, Captain, 34, 35, 36. 37. 

McDonald, Donald. 117. 
McKnight, Thomas, 129. 
Maclaine. Archibald. 22. 104, 106. 
Martin. Gov. Josiah, 68, 81-82, 83. 

84, 94, 95-96, 97-98, 99, 106. 114. 

128, 158. 
Massachusetts Circular of 1768, 49. 

51. 
Mecklenburg Resolutions. 132. 
MiUtla. 105, 155. 
Minute Men, 105. 
Moore. George, 35. 
Moore, James, 22. 38. 43, 45, 56, 105. 

115, 117. 
Moore, Col. Maurice. 11. 14. 
Moore, Maurice, 22. 
Moore. Roger, 14. 
Moore^s Creek Bridge, battle of. 

116-19. 141. 



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Index 



209 



Nash, Abner, 100, 111, 142, 152, 154, 

17». 
Nayigation Acts, 27. 
New Bern committee of safety, 93. 
Newtown, 15. 
Non-importation association, 61, 

53-54,55-58. 

Onslow committee of safety, 93. 

Parker, Sir Peter, 116. 
Patience, the, 34, 36, 37. 
Penn, John, 135-36. 139, 140, 165, 

179.188. 
Pennington, Mr., 38-41. 
Pennsylvania Farmer, the, 163. 
Person. Thomas, 111, 143, 152, 153, 

154, 178. 
Phipps, Capt., 32. 
Pinckney, Charles, 165-66. 
Pirates at Gape Fear, 10. 
Pitt county committee of safety, 

126. 
Polk, Thomas, 115. 
PoUy, the. 163. 
Privateers, 163. 
Provincial Congress, 82. 83, 95, 103, 

104. 106. 125, 134, 142, 172. 
Provincial Council, 109, 110-114, 

115. 

Quince, Richard, 56. 
Quincy, Josiah Jr., 77-78. 

••Radicals," 15?. 
Rand, John, 154. 



Recruiting in North Carolina, 165. 

Regulators, the, 58-67, 97, 114, 116. 

Rhode Island, 56. 

Rodney, Caesar, 149. 

Rowan county committee of safety, 

124, 133. 
Rvbv, the, 34. 36, 37. 
Rutherford. Griffith, 115. 

Sharpe. William. 154. 
Simpson, John, 154. 
•'Snow Campaign,'* 115. 
Sons of Liberty. 42. 55. 
Spencer, Samuel, 111. 
Stamp Act, 30, 31, 32. 65-66. 
Starkey, Edward, 178. 

Taylor, William. 178. 
Tories, 114. 162, 166-69. 
Townshend Acts, 48, 49-51, 52. 
Tryon, Gov. William, 30, 35-36, 37, 

38.41,43-44,59,68,75. 
Tryon county committee of safety, 

133. 

Vail. Edward. 81. 
Viper, the, 34, 36, 37. 

WaddeU, Hugh, 22, 32, 45. 
WiUiams, John, 192. 
Williams, Joseph John, 154. 
Wilmington, 15-16. 21-22, 195. 
Wilmington-New Hanover commit- 
tee of safety, 87, 96, 103. 



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